Thursday, August 31, 2017

Captain’s Ruse

Month 6 Day 30
1125 Hours

Jane used her rank to open Smythe’s office door instead of asking to be admitted. Both men turned from their conversation. “I thought I’d find you 2 here. I’ve got something for you.” She handed a reader to her engineer. “It’s a paper that’s about to be submitted to one of those technical journals, Smitty. Tell me what you think of it.” She handed the other reader to S’thyme. “And I’m told this is a translation into the Yukoskian language and light-band. I think you’ll find it interesting.”

“Who wrote it?” Smitty asked. “And how did you get it? Papers aren’t usually available until they’re published.”

“I have sources,” she said with a crooked smile. “I’ll explain later. Right now, read.”

Both men turned their attention to their readers, and Jane leaned against the bulkhead to think. How do I convince Smitty to let somebody else administer MacDowell’s test? I appreciate her desire to pass probation before her original period is over, but the last I heard, she didn’t think she’d pass, even with an extra month. Still, it only took a few days for them to sort memories and write this paper. Her spirits seem to have improved immensely in that time.

“I don’t understand what this person is doing,” Smitty stated. “Only half of this makes sense, or rather, mentions equipment I know. And that’s if you ignore the chemistry thrown in.”

“Biochemistry,” S’thyme corrected, and regarded his look-alike. “I’m disappointed, my friend.”

“I never studied biochemistry,” Smitty stated defensively. “I only know some chemistry because of the crystals used in our engines. How much biochemistry do you know?”

“We have to understand how our transport beam works.” S’thyme put his reader on the desk. “This is the paper I suggested Kolla write, about what she and your Coline did in order to separate themselves.”

Smitty looked at the reader he held. “Well, in our society, papers like this express their intention in the first paragraph. If I’d had that information—”

Jane straightened in mock surprise. “What do you mean? Is that missing?” She pulled the reader from Smitty’s hand, flipped back to the start of the document. “I could have sworn I added it. Just a second.” She added the paragraph and handed the reader back. “I said the same thing when I first got this paper, and a few minutes later, this paragraph landed on my desk. See if it makes sense now.” She started for the door, stopped and looked back. “It’s lunch time. Let’s go together and discuss the paper once you’ve read it again.”

“I don’t need to read it again,” S’thyme stated. “The parts I understood were brilliant. Exactly what I’ve come to expect from my wife.”

“Well, I do,” Smitty admitted. “The lack of a stated purpose threw me for a loop, and then the equipment I didn’t know, the chem- uh, biochemistry thrown in… Give me a minute,” he asked as he started reading.

Jane returned, pulled her chief engineer to his feet. With her hand under his arm, he came willingly, his attention glued to the reader. S’thyme came also, his own reader in his hand.

On the lift, Smitty declared, “The CF354 can’t be used that way!” Good, he’s actually giving it a chance this time. “That’s not a modification, that’s a complete rebuild, but for what purpose?”

When they entered the messhall, Jane caught a glimpse of 2 redheads leaving, chatting like old friends. Jane turned to join the food line. MacDowell looks well rested, relaxed. Confident. The sorting must have worked.

S’thyme asked, “Do you suppose they’ve made anything with peanut butter today?”

Jane smiled. “You can always ask for a peanut butter sandwich.”

“Hey, S’thyme!” Anna greeted the man from the end of the serving line. “Be sure you get some of these peanut butter cookies! Made them for you and your bride!”

S’thyme grinned and nodded, but turned to Jane. “I thought Anna was a cooky.”

“She’s a cook,” Jane stated. “The head cook. A cookie is a small dessert. Or a snack. But there you go, something made with peanut butter.”

“She is very thoughtful. Now, what should I have for the main meal?”

Smitty pulled his eyes away from the reader to glance at the overhead menu. “Salisbury steak sounds good,” he stated. “I’ll have that.” He pulled his arm from Jane’s grasp.

Once they settled at a table, Smitty put the reader down. “Captain, S’thyme and I need to discuss this paper at some length. Yes, it mentions some of our equipment – actually, a large number of pieces of our equipment – but they are modified, re-wired and placed in such an odd arrangement that… I need to figure out what they would do, with all that done to them. And I need S’thyme’s input, because he understands the Yukoskian transport beam, which is apparently what she’s trying to replicate.”

“Not exactly,” S’thyme stated. “They were trying to build something that would pull my wife’s personality out of Coline and reunite it with her reconstituted body.”

Smitty frowned at his plate. “Well, she wouldn’t have gotten much help from Colleen. First, she’s communications, not engineering, and secondly, she hasn’t even passed communications.”

S’thyme replied with, “Yet Kolla says she wouldn’t have managed anything without Coline. Perhaps because they were 2 minds within 1 body. Kolla would explain 1 piece, just 1 step of what she needed to have happen, and before long, your Coline figured out how to modify something to do it. And she must have done that well, because it worked.”

“Yes, but—“ Smitty stopped and stiffly turned to face Jane. “Who wrote this paper?”

Well, that’s that. He’s figured it out.

“She said it was my wife,” S’thyme stated.

“Both ladies wrote it,” Jane admitted. “Kolla wrote in Yukoskian, MacDowell wrote in English, but the versions are exactly the same.”

“How could you—“

Jane interrupted Smitty’s tirade. “Both ladies each other’s memories. Kolla suggested they sort through their efforts to mesh the technologies, which they’ve done the last few days. I guess they wrote it down at the same time. I thought you’d be interested in seeing how it was done.”

No one spoke for a moment, until Smitty glanced at his look-alike and said, “Colleen kept asking about my beard.”

“She kept calling me ‘Smit’,” S’thyme stated. He took a bite of his Salisbury steak. “Very good. Thank you for the suggestion. Now, what is a CF354? What does it do, normally?”

“Oh, it’s a simple piece from engineering that’s used to steady a fluctuating electrical stream.”

How would MacDowell know anything about engineering? Tugs don’t cross-train. Jane ate, expecting Smitty would stop, once he realized MacDowell had modified a circuit from engineering. But apparently, he never made that realization, and the 2 men dove into a technical conversation that would probably last long past the end of her meal.

At least he’s discussing the paper in earnest, trying to figure out what was done, why, and how it worked. Not exactly what I’d hoped for, but at least it’s not the dismissal he first gave. I suppose that’s something. Now, I have a ship to run, even if we are just orbiting a friendly planet. I don’t think these men will realize I’ve left.

As Jane headed down the corridor for the lift, she saw Drake approaching. “Don’t sit with Smitty,” she warned as they passed.


She turned around briefly to explain. “He’s having a technical conversation with S’thyme.”

“Oh. Thanks for the warning.”

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