Tuesday, August 8, 2017

The Meeting (Part 2)

Month 6 Day 26
0057 Hours
Captain Jane Burke

S’thyme chuckled. “Isn’t that how this started? A surprise as you orbited our planet?”

Jane smiled. “True. Hopefully, we avoid repeating that event.”

“Maybe you should-“

Jane looked up, but MacDowell had stopped talking. “Did you have a suggestion, Lt?”

The girl sighed. “The bridge felt… crowded, as we left and when we returned. And our activities no doubt distracted the bridge crew. Maybe another room could be used?”

“Good idea,” Jane decided. “I’ll have a conference room cleared out.” She turned to S’thyme and Kolla. “Will there be any problems transporting that many people?”

“No, but we’ll have to let the machine ‘taste’ each of them, since their qorjah is not in our storage memory,” Kolla answered.

“Taste?” Smitty repeated.

MacDowell sighed. “We would say ‘sample’ or ‘register’. But the translation comes out as ‘taste’. Tasting isn’t intrusive, and doesn’t hurt. But it is necessary for the people to be correctly… reconstructed at the destination.”

“With that many new qorjahs,” S’thyme stated, “we would take 3 or 4 at a time. We can make several trips.”

“Good,” Jane announced. “Smitty, I’d like you to be the lead officer tomorrow. Winthrop’s second, uh…”

“Tall Bear,” MacDowell offered.

“I’d like him to go with you, if he’s not busy. The Yukosk have some powerful alcohol.” She sat back in her chair. “Now, while we are here, S’thyme and Kolla will stay aboard. Except for the parties. Today starts their official honeymoon-“ Kolla blushed a soft gray in her cheeks while S’thyme took her hand and smiled. “So, let’s not pester them too much while they’re our guests.”

“Yes, captain.” Smitty sighed, obviously disappointed.

“Smitty, would you show S’thyme to guest quarters 8A2? I want a brief talk with the ladies.”

Smitty gave her a look of surprise, quickly hidden. “Of course, captain.”

Still expected me to chew him out for not talking with MacDowell. Not tonight, Smitty, but soon. I need to think first. Jane watched the men leave and the hall door close. “How have you dealt with these shared memories so far?”

Kolla shrugged. “I know which is my husband. As for others, when I see one, I see them both, if I’ve met both, but in different colors. I pick the one I'm with, and I know which name to use. As for technology, ours is as readily available as it was before I… invaded. I don’t have to search for it. Your technology… Large chunks are available, but I have to reason it out. Sometimes, that takes a while, because I’ll try to use my knowledge instead of the Fleet’s. It’s there, but it won’t ruin my career. Or be a problem. In fact, S’thyme wants me to go through what we did ‘on the fly’ and write a paper about it.”

Jane turned to the communications officer. “Lt?”

“I’ve been sleeping a lot,” MacDowell stated. “And thinking. Not about extra memories in my head, which is what I should have been thinking about. I don’t always make the best choices.”

“No one does,” Jane replied. “We live with them and try to do better the next time. Would that method Kolla described help you figure out which person is which?”

“I’ll try it,” MacDowell answered. “Except for the odd moment like I had tonight, it won’t be a problem in the long run. I’ve only got to get through 3 weeks. And I can – at last – tell the difference between Smit and Stym.”

“What did you call him?” Kolla asked.

“Stym,” MacDowell answered with a blush. “I shorten everybody’s name. It’s just… something I do.”

That explains the ‘cap’ she used on me earlier.

“I like it,” Kolla stated.

“What about the technologies?” Jane asked.

“Our experiences are different,” MacDowell said. “Perhaps because it was my body we shared. We used our knowledge of the technologies at the same time, to figure out how to make them mesh. Her memories were impressed into my mind, easy to call up. So easy, I move from one to the other without realizing it.” She lowered her gaze to the floor. “So another month won’t do me any good.”

“Don’t give up!” Kolla told her. “You haven’t tried. We’ve got 21 days! Well, 20 days. We’ll review what we did. That should give you an idea what’s yours and what’s mine.”

“You’re on your honeymoon!” MacDowell protested. “And you have parties to attend every day.”

“Oh, intimacy is fun, but we can’t do it all the time,” Kolla returned. “Besides, I know Stym, and he’ll be seeking out your Smit to discuss engineering. He can’t get enough of it.”

“I thought we couldn’t share our technologies.”

“Negotiations are done,” Jane reminded MacDowell. “Now we can share, if we give as much as we receive. That’s the way I understand it. Knowing Smythe – and I assume that lends me some understanding of S’thyme – each has a keen interest in the method of transportation the other knows.”

“Yes,” Kolla agreed. “As for us, we have already shared technology, out of dire necessity, and can examine it as much as we want.”

“I like the idea, but I won’t ask either of you to forego your duties, your fun, or your needs.” Jane faced MacDowell directly. “Like sleep.”

“Bugs would kill me,” the girl muttered.

Doesn’t sound like Bugalu. “I’d like for you to write out the process. I’m sure such a document would be of interest to both our peoples.”

MacDowell shrugged. “We might as well.”

Jane leaned forward. “But don’t tell Smythe and S’thyme. They’d want to join you, and possibly write up other things about the 2 technologies, and that might ruin the honeymoon.”

“We’ll say we’re sorting the double memories.”

“Yes.” Jane turned to MacDowell. “Would you show Kolla to guest quarters 8A2? That will give you a chance to discuss how to approach your task. And thank you both for your support this evening. The translation machines still don’t know all the local idioms.”

“I’ll input them in my spare time.” Kolla stood up.

“I’ve done what I could,” MacDowell said as they headed for the door. “But I can’t speak in your frequency.” The door closed behind them.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

The Meeting (Part 1)

Month 6 Day 26
0057 Hours
Captain Jane Burke

“Please, everyone take a seat.” Jane walked forward to her desk while sorting what to say and when, but as she turned, Takor’s appearance scattered her thoughts. “Takor, your gills are pink.”

Its gills - normally green like the rest of him and closed in air - were rosy and puffing, and the bones of its head crest softly clattered as they moved without pattern. I’ve never seen the crest do that.

MacDowell placed a hand on Takor’s shoulder. She spoke words full of sibilants, quickly. I thought she didn’t speak Sciss well? Takor responded, and with her brow furrowed in confusion, MacDowell asked Jane, “Too much peas?”

There weren’t any - Oh! “Sick bay!” Jane declared.

“I’ll take him,” both Smitty and MacDowell said, and each took hold of an arm.

“Sit!” Jane snapped. “I’ll call-“ She was interrupted by the tone that announced a visitor at the hall door. Jane stared in surprise. Who can possibly imagine I would be in my office this late?

The door slid open to reveal a copper-skinned woman in a loose caftan, her black hair in two long braids. I remember her, but not her name. After a brief bow, the tall woman entered and helped Takor to its feet. Without a word, the pair left.

The door closed, and MacDowell sighed in relief. “YD will get him there.”

“Y D?” Jane repeated, still drawing a blank on a name.

After a moment, Smitty cleared his throat. “Yellow Dog, Takor’s yeoman. You welcomed her aboard-“

Now I remember. A blond, a brunette and a redhead. “Yes. My mind was on other matters.” She pulled her thoughts together again.

“Is Takkore ill?” Kolla asked. “Doc Mac said he could eat the same foods as humans.”

“Yes, normally,” Jane assured her. “However, there are some foods that are too… rich for a Scissan. Takor loves the taste, but can’t digest a large quantity of them.”

Kolla stated, “Much of what was served is…rich. It depends what that means.” She grimaced. “Perhaps you should consult our nutritionists.”

“MacGregor can do that. Then we’ll all know what not to feed Scissans. They are normally logical and friendly, unless their metabolism is out of kilter.”

“Will they come here?” S’thyme asked. “Without any humans?”

“I can’t say. Most Fleet ships have human crews. Some – like us – have a Scissan aboard. The Sciss have smaller starships, smaller crews. But your translators know their language, so there shouldn’t be any problems, if any arrive.” Jane moved on. “I’m told you ladies share each other’s memories. Are you having any difficulty with that?”

MacDowell sighed. “I thought I was okay. But tonight, without thinking, I asked Zunabat how his Hortez were doing this year.”

Jane blinked. “His what?”

“Roses,” MacDowell responded. “Orchids. Well, neither one, of course, but it is a plant difficult to grow in captivity and thus a favorite among gardeners who love a challenge.”

She slipped into Kolla’s memories with one man out of the hundreds that were there? “You were no doubt happy to see a face that looked familiar,” Jane offered

MacDowell frowned. “I saw a lot of familiar faces. Mostly look-likes for co-workers or Academy students. And my grandmother. But I – Colleen – don’t know anybody who looks like Zunabat.”

Maybe I should have saved this topic for later. “One person out of… hundreds doesn’t indicate massive confusion in your mind. I’m hoping you don’t confuse our technology with Yukosk technology.”

“Oh.” MacDowell started to glance at Smitty, chose to stare at the floor. “Well, mostly, they work on different… wavelengths. Their technology took a few paths ours didn’t. And didn’t bother with some we followed. They mesh pretty easily.”

“As evidenced by what happened,” Kolla stated. “And how we managed to undo it easily, once we learned to communicate.”

“Easily?” Smitty muttered.

S’thyme answered. “It took generations of scientists to figure out our transport beam. Your radio was not part of our equipment. But in what - less than 2 days? - these 2 figured out how to make it work, using only variations of your equipment, none of ours. I knew my wife was smart, but… Zort!”

If only Smitty was equally impressed by MacDowell’s portion of that work.

“Captain?” Smitty stood up. “Might I address Lt MacDowell now?”

Trying to get back on my good side. If he’d done it in private, it would’ve sound like his idea, not mine, but it’s about time. Past time. Jane nodded.

Smitty didn’t look at MacDowell. “Lt, this ship has been in a state of… of… disarray… for a month or more. As the rest of the crew landed in sick bay, you filled the void without complaint. And when you eventually couldn’t, there were… situations we weren’t aware of, followed by… complications in your recovery. With the captain’s approval, I authorize another month of, uh, probation, to replace the last month, which has been so… chaotic.”

If Jane expected to see relief on MacDowell’s face, she was disappointed. There was moisture in the green eyes, but the redhead swallowed hard, her eyes bitterly cold. She muttered, “Thank you, Smit. Cap.” She stood and recovered her dress uniform cap from another chair. “Is there anything else you need me for, Cap? –tain?”

Jane sighed internally. I can’t blame her. After what she managed, while totally exhausted, and even if she did have Kolla’s help, I would have declared her probation done. I should have pressed Smitty to do that, not just give her another month. She gave a small cough. “Yes. Please sit down.” MacDowell sat. Jane went on. “Yukosk custom is for a successful negotiation to be celebrated at least as long as the negotiations lasted. The Council considers the negotiations started the moment the 2 ladies… merged. I have agreed to 21 nights of celebration, so we shall be here another 3 weeks.”

Smitty stared at her, then gave a short nod. “I’ll make arrangements to cover Colleen’s shifts-”

“No,” Jane stated. “Even before I knew Takor had over-indulged, I thought the Yukoskians should meet more of us.”

“Kolleen would like to get her life back to normal,” Kolla offered.

Jane smiled. “If I attend just 7 of your parties, I would no longer fit inside this uniform. So we’ll send up to 20 each night, with at least 1 senior officer. That won’t let everybody go, so we’ll make it a drawing. I’ll have my yeoman start the process. Those who want to attend a party can put their name in.”

“Ah… Winthrop-“ Smitty mentioned softly.

Won’t put his name in,” Jane stated flatly. “Could you assist Blossum with that project, Smitty? She can assign the groups, but somebody with rank should notify those who are going and their supervisors.”

“Yes, Captain. The engines are purring, and I don’t expect any surprises, certainly not while we’re just orbiting the planet.”

S’thyme chuckled. “Isn’t that how this started? A surprise as you orbited our planet?”

Jane smiled. “True. Hopefully, we avoid repeating that event.”