by Katherine Allen
|Table of Contents|
Part 4 and part 5
appear in this issue.
While he was still being announced a young man strode into the room.”Mr. Hara,” he said, “I am a government investigator. And I would like to discuss this entry on this form that you submitted.” Then, pointing to the offending line he said, “Mr. Hara, my superiors want to know what this means. ‘Bride off-planet, unexpected departure’. Why did you allow your daughter to travel off-planet right before her wedding? What can be so important? And why did you not accompany her?”
Mr. Hara sat, slightly shocked at this man’s sudden arrival, and barrage of questions.”Sir,” he began, “My daughter departed the planet unexpectedly, exactly as the form reads. And it was so unexpected that I was unable to accompany her.”
“Who did accompany her?” the young man asked, as he seated himself, without being asked.
“The only available family member was her grandmother. She is traveling with her.”
“Do you really expect me to believe that you allowed a young girl, on the verge of marriage, to leave the planet, escorted by no one except a grandmother? Either you are a great fool, or you think that I am a fool. Do you think this?”
“Not at all.”
“Very well then, why don’t you stop this nonsense and tell the truth? What really happened to your daughter?”
“She is... off-planet. I don’t know exactly where. She and her grandmother boarded a ship at New Edo and left the planet. I have sent men to all the destinations. I am still attempting to trace them.”
“I see. Mr. Hara, your family seems to be very bad at controlling your women. Did not your mother also run away long ago?”
“Yes, sir, she did. However, she was brought back and my father married her. And so Skoshi will be brought back so that she can marry the man she is promised to.”
“If the young man is foolish enough to still want her. I know that I would never want to marry a girl who showed such a willful and ungrateful spirit. You had better find her, Mr. Hara, if you don’t want to face public humiliation. Good day, sir.” With that, the young man rose from his seat and left the room.
“Yes,” Skoshi’s father thought.”Skoshi must be brought back. She must!”
* * *
As time passed, Skoshi began spending more and more time in the infirmary learning as much as she could. It finally got so that every minute not spent sleeping, eating or on duty she spent in the infirmary. Within a month she was able to treat the common cold, set bones, administer fairly accurate elementary diagnoses and treat burns.”Skoshi,” the doctor asked her once, “do you have any actual training in the medical area?”
“No, Doctor, such learning is on Hon’ya reserved for men.”
“What? Why? Women make wonderful doctors. There is something women get in their voices that makes even the biggest of men obey. I think they bring back memories of one’s mother telling you to do something. I know it gets me every time.
“But anyway, the reason I asked is that I’ve never seen anyone pick up on medical knowledge so fast. You have a true talent for it. If you were a man... No, that’s not fair. You can still go to Earth and become a doctor. But the Space Corps will be losing the best doctor they would have ever had.”
“Thank you, Doctor” Skoshi replied.”I’d like to be a doctor for the Space Corps. If only I could. But I highly doubt I could hide my gender very long in a school full of nothing but medical students.”
“I don’t know,” Dr. Allen replied, laughing, “some of the goons they let graduate wouldn’t know you were a girl if you stripped down in front of them. I despair of the next generation, I really do. Present company excluded, of course.”
One day Skoshi was called to the captain’s cabin. When she reported she found not only the captain but also the doctor.”Ah, Takshi, can you fill in for the Doctor today?”
“What?” Skoshi asked, her face white and a slightly terrified expression on her face, only slightly mind you.
“Skoshi,” the doctor said, or rather gasp, he could barely talk.”I seem to have a touch of a cold. Now, I’ve already administered an antibiotic, and I will be fine tomorrow. But right now I am going to take the opportunity to rest. I think all of the men are well at the moment, the only thing you should have to worry about is an accident, and they are seldom very serious. I really think you can handle this, and I need the rest. I’m going to take a relaxant and go rest for the day. Then tomorrow you can resume your normal activities. All right?”
“I... I suppose so. If you really think I can do it.”
“I know you can. Besides, you can always access the medical database. It’s designed so that a person with absolutely no medical experience can look up something and be able to follow its instructions. And you can come and get me if you have to. Don’t worry. Now, if you will excuse me, I’ll go take that relaxant.”
“Don’t trust me to give it to you, Doctor?” Skoshi asked him with a mischievous smile.
“Now, Skoshi, you know me better than that. I just happen to be very tender. And you are a little rough with that needle,” the doctor replied.”Good for most of the men, but I’m special.”
After the Doctor retired to his day of sleep Skoshi went to his office and looked around. To put it mildly, it was a mess.”But then,” Skoshi thought, “what can you expect from unmarried human male.” And she set to work straightening it up. In the middle of that somewhat lengthy process one of the crew came in to the infirmary.
“Dr. Allen, Dr. Allen!” When she looked out Skoshi could see that it was Mr. Madison, from maintenance.
“Madison,” Skoshi said as she walked out of the Dr’s office.”The doctor is not feeling well today, so he left me in charge. What’s the matter?”
“You’re in charge of the infirmary, Mr. Hara?”
“Yes, Madison. Don’t worry. Do you honestly think that the doctor would let anyone touch a member of his precious crew unless he thought he could handle the job? You know how possessive the doctor is of you guys.”
“Yeah, I guess so,” Madison said, still sounding a little unconvinced.
“Now, Madison, hop up on the table and we’ll soon set you to rights.”
Cautiously... all right, looking like he was about to bolt... Madison got up on the table.”It’s my arm. I was welding a loose panel and some idiot came over and sprayed flammable foam near me. It got on my arm and kind of... well, it burst into flames. I just wanted to make sure I hadn’t damaged it too much.”
Skoshi pulled the tissue analyzer over and put Madison’s arm underneath it. “Well,” she said, “aside from burning all the hair off your arm I don’t see much damage that time can’t heal. All the hair is gone of course, and you have some nasty first-degree burns. But I imagine you put out the flames pretty fast. Your arm may be sore a couple of days, but I think we can patch it up.”
“Good, it hurts like the dickens.”
“I imagine it does. Here’s some burn cream, spread it on now, and again tonight when you go to bed. By morning it should be mostly healed. I’ll give you something for the pain and I’ll get you a note for your supervisor. Go to your quarters and rest today. Tomorrow you should be able to go back to work.”
“Thanks, sir.” As Madison left the infirmary Skoshi could here him say to someone outside, “It’s all right, he’s almost as good as Dr. Allen. At any rate, he won’t kill you. And you owe me for going in first. Remember now.”
Stifling a chuckle Skoshi straightened her face as the other man came in.”Mr. Hara, I was lifting a box down in engineering and I think I put my shoulder out.”
“All right.” And she began inspecting the shoulder and going over it with the tissue analyzer. She then gave him something to deaden the shoulder temporarily and then set it back in place. She gave him a pain pill and sent him back to work with the admonition to not lift anything heavy for a day or two.
And so the day went on. Skoshi set a broken arm and treated several burns. She gave pills for headaches and sewed up cuts and treated bruises.
That night when she went to bed she was exhausted. But, looking back on the day it was the most fun she had ever had.
* * *
The next day Skoshi reported for duty at her normal station and was told, again, to report to the captain’s cabin. When she got there she, again, found that both the Doctor and the Captain were there. “Ahh, Skoshi.” the captain said.”Just the person I wanted to see. The Doctor said you did well yesterday. Didn’t you Tom?” He turned to Dr. Allen.
“Yes,” the doctor began, “You did very well, so well in fact that I have asked the captain to release you to me. As I have told you before, I feel that you have real potential. You proved that yesterday. By the way, I found this rather amusing: you remember that I told you that there were never very many accidents?”
“Well, yesterday we had more reported accidents than we have had for the last month. It goes to show that you should never tell someone that it will be easy, and that there is nothing to any job. The job will always prove you wrong!”
* * *
The more Skoshi progressed in her medical knowledge the more sorry Dr. Allen was that she would never be able to be a doctor for the Corps. He would rack his brain daily to try to think of a way it could be done. He sent transmissions to some of his important friends asking them if it was possible for a woman to enter the corps medical training facility, but whoever he talked to always told him the same thing. There had never been a woman in the Space Corps; too many of the influential worlds were prejudiced against women in important positions; there would be women some day, but integration, and convincing worlds that they were wrong, was a slow process, and at this time they were not accepting female applicants.
The Doctor never told Skoshi of his efforts on her behalf, he didn’t want to get her hopes up. But he knew he had done all he could, and at this point in time only a miracle, or a very good lawyer, would get Skoshi into the Space Corps.
Skoshi’s ship, the Journeyman, docked in the spaceport orbiting Menoth 3. Even though they were a freighter they had a couple of passenger suites in case there were some people who were going their way. They were going to pick up a diplomat and his family, consisting of his wife and his sixteen-year-old daughter. When the captain went to welcome the diplomat, a Mr. George Donval and his wife, he took Skoshi and the first mate with him.
Mr. Donval was a short, pompous looking man, who frequently smiled quite insincerely, whereas Mrs. Donval was a tall, beautiful woman who smiled nice, charming, polite smiles at everyone. Their daughter, Cynthia, was a tall graceful girl with long brown hair and black eyes. She was beautiful and knew it. At first she seemed to look down on the ship as well as everyone in it. Then she saw Skoshi. Skoshi as a girl was very pretty, and as a man she still had her beautiful blue eyes and pleasant face. As soon as the captain introduced Skoshi as his ensign, Mr. Takshi Hara, she left her parents’ side and came over to Skoshi.
“Oh, Mr. Hara, it’s so nice to meet you. I’ve always admired men in space, so brave and courageous. I wonder, Mr. Hara... oh can I call you Takshi instead? It so much nicer, much more manly... if you would escort me to my quarters, and then... maybe show me around the ship?” As she spouted these sweet and utterly noxious things she gazed at Skoshi, fluttered her eyelashes, and put her arm in Skoshi’s.
Skoshi sent a pained glance over to the captain, in effect asking, “Do I have to?” He nodded yes, but at the same time looked slightly sympathetic, but not very. Skoshi sighed and then looked again at Cynthia. Forcing a smile on her face, she said, “Of course, Miss Donval, I would be delighted. Right this way.”
As they walked through the corridors they ran across Donny.”Donny, I mean Mr. Donavan. This is the daughter of our guest, Mr. Donval.” Of course, Donny, being the ‘ladies man’ he was, was immediately captured in Cynthia’s spell. “Hello Miss Donval, I... I hope you have a good time on our ship... and... and I would be happy to escort you anywhere... anywhere... and...”
After shooting a stinging glance at Donny, she turned to Skoshi and simpered “Takshi... Can’t we leave this part of the ship? It’s dusty and... Smelly. Couldn’t we go somewhere else?”
“Very well, Miss Donval, but this is a fascinating portion of the ship, very important...” Skoshi as cut off by a radio crackle.
“Will Mr. Hara please report to engineering? Mr. Hara to engineering.”
“Oh, no,” Skoshi said trying desperately to sound disappointed.”It looks like we have to cut our tour short. I’m very sorry, Miss Donval. But I’m sure Mr. Donavan will be happy to escort you through the rest of the ship. Goodbye.” And with that... she ran.
Donny turned to Cynthia, “Miss Donval?”
“Get away from me! Don’t you touch me! I’m going back to my room! I can find the way myself!” And with that Cynthia stormed away leaving Mr. Donavan standing there. Slowly, he smiled.
“I think she likes me.” Sigh.
* * *
Skoshi arrived at engineering out of breath.”You called?” she asked Mr. Cartwright, the chief engineer.
“Yes, I did, Takshi, You need to reset one of the relays in one of the central tubes, the one that controls the water heat. One of the guest rooms only has cold water.”
“Okay... wait... which one?”
“Which one? The second one.” Mr. Cartwright turned away.
“That’s Mr. and Mrs. Donval’s room, okay. I’m right on it.” As Skoshi crawled through the tube she muttered to herself.”If it was Cynthia’s I might have left it alone...” Suddenly she chuckled. A while later, when she climbed out of the tube, a smile was on her face. She then went back to her room whistling.
A little later, Cynthia decided to take a shower. She stepped into the bathroom, turned on the faucet, and, without feeling the water temperature, stepped right in. Skoshi could hear the screams in her quarters, halfway across the ship.
* * *
That evening Cynthia was livid. All through dinner it went on, “If this is an example of most ships I’m glad we won’t be on one for long!”
The captain, of course, apologized profusely. Skoshi was sure however that she saw a twinkle in his eye.”I’m sure, Miss Donval, that it was all a mistake. We are very sorry, this never happens...”
Mr. Cartwright, on the other hand, could barely keep from laughing; several times he had to wipe his mouth just to hide an escaping chuckle. Suddenly the captain turned to him.”Mr. Cartwright, did your machinery pick up the source of the problem?”
“Err... Yes, Captain, it seems both of the water heaters were malfunctioning. We only saw the one in Mr. Donval’s room, and I sent young Takshi to fix it. He did, but our scans hadn’t seen Miss Donval’s room. We didn’t look there because we thought sure that hers would be fine. We had just replaced it. Those things happen though. Sometimes a thing just gets jarred, Miss, It ah... won’t happen again.”
“Humph.” Cynthia sniffed, “Be sure it doesn’t.”
* * *
The next morning Skoshi went about her business as usual, that is, as usual as possible with Cynthia tagging along... simpering.”Oh, Takshi, wasn’t it awful about the water yesterday. I’m so glad you fixed it! And I’m so glad it wasn’t your fault, and that you didn’t get into trouble. That would have been horrible!
Understandably, Skoshi had developed a migraine by noon, if not earlier. Finally she couldn’t stand it any more.”Cynthia, why don’t you go back to your cabin? You look very tired.”
“Oh, I’m not a bit tired. Not as long as I’m around you!!!”
Skoshi groaned, “Also, I’m going into the bowels of the ship now,”
“I don’t mind going with you... Can I? Please!”
“I don’t think you should...” Racking her brain for an excuse, “I mean... with the... rats and all.”
“Rats? On a spaceship?
“Yeah... Nanorats... they’re very small.”
“Well, what do they do to you? And how come you go down there?”
“Well, I have this special cream I put on. It smells like... engine oil. They hate it. If I don’t put it on, they bite me. And when they do that... the bites cover you with... a really bad... rash... all over your face... like... pimples.”
“How awful! I... I think you’re right... I’ll just stay here.”
“All right. It’ll be boring, anyway. As soon as I come back I’ll have to go take a shower. And wash my clothes. To make sure I didn’t get any nanorats in my hair or anything. Then it will be time for dinner... so, maybe you should just go back now. I’ll see you at dinner. I promise!”
“Al... all right. Bye, Takshi, see you later.”
* * *
Cynthia knocked on the captain’s cabin door.”Come in.”
“Hello, Captain. May I ask a favor of you?”
“Of course, Miss Donval.”
“May I trade seats with my mother? She doesn’t mind.”
“Why would you want to do that? Don’t you enjoy the company of young Donavan?”
“Well... I do enjoy sitting with dear Mr. Donavan” Cynthia replied, lying through her teeth, “but... I much prefer Mr. Hara’s company. He’s such a gentleman. And... mother wants to sit next to Mr. Donavan. She really does.”
The captain looked at the ceiling of his cabin. “I’m sorry, Skoshi,” he thought to himself. “Very well, Miss Donval, you may change seats.”
“Oh. Thank you, Captain!!!”
After she left, he sat there thinking. Poor, poor Skoshi.
To be continued...
Copyright © 2006 by Katherine Allen