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.”

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