Michelle Pichette

Chapter 13



* * *

     Admiral Nelson still didn’t feel rested when Monday rolled around.  He had too many concerns that weekend and had slept poorly.  The fundraiser had been a success, with only the small incident with Senator Barnett marring the evening.  Nelson sighed as he thought about it.  He had made certain that Doctor Babin’s office had a large bouquet of irises, her favorite flower, waiting there for her this morning.  It was his attempt to apologize again to her for the embarrassment she’d suffered, though she hadn’t made a fuss about the matter.  The flowers and apology should have been from Barnett, but Nelson doubted the man had enough decency in him to think of it.

     However, there had also been some rather expensive roses delivered to both Doctor Babin and Miss Simmons from Kensington.  He didn’t know what Miss Simmons’ response to the roses would be, but visions of having to repair a paper shredder sprang to mind.  He would be glad when someone new captured Kensington’s attention, in both regards.

     Nelson hadn’t heard from his third headache, Barris, all weekend.  He was grateful, but he knew this silence wouldn’t last.  Why did aliens feel so drawn to him, the Seaview, and the Institute?  Perhaps Kensington would find Barris’ offer more interesting than he did, Nelson thought with a malicious grin for about a second.  Then he decided that would probably mean he would have even more troubles and that he’d better not even think it.

     He had come into the Institute early in the morning, thinking that he would tackle his paperwork and do his best to rid himself of it.  The pile seemed to be mocking him, refusing to decrease substantially in size.  Nelson considered lighting the offending papers along with the cigarette he was about to smoke, but he didn’t.  He would be done with it in another day or two, then he could put his attention to more pleasurable things, like the upgrades to the minisub and the flying sub.

     Nelson had several things in mind and was chomping at the bit at the thought of getting some computer simulations running some tests.  Miss Simmons shared his enthusiasm about the minisub, but she had expressed some doubts as far as what he wanted to do with FS1.  She knew he wanted to have a space ready vehicle at the Institute, especially considering how many aliens they had been forced to deal with over the years.  Nelson wanted something versatile, like a space shuttle, only more so, but there were so many problems keeping the vehicle small and the fuel costs manageable.  In the end, he had decided to stretch the Flying Sub’s capabilities, finding ways to get the little vessel into higher altitudes and lower depths.

     Nelson was thinking about ways to do that while scanning the next piece of paper from offensive stack when his intercom buzzed.  “Lee Crane to see you, sir,” Katy’s cheery voice came over the intercom.

     Nelson took a deep drag on his cigarette, then stamped it out.  Lee had been giving him looks of disapproval about his smoking lately.  No sense in giving his Captain more to be moody about, Nelson thought, saying aloud, “Send him in, Katy.”

     Lee came in and was, as anticipated, frowning.  He had been talking to Kensington at the fundraiser, which never sat well with Crane, though the young Captain was always civil.  The Seaview being damaged wouldn’t have made things any easier to swallow, especially with Miss Simmons so busy and probably cranky from having to speak to Kensington as well.  “So, Lee, Friday evening seemed to go well, despite a few little bumps,” Nelson commented waving Lee to a seat as he signed the paper in front of him.  Nelson tossed it in his done pile and looked up to see Crane still standing before his desk, looking angry about something.  “Or perhaps not so well,” Nelson said, raising an eyebrow.  “Or did something happen with your meeting with ONI this weekend?”

     “No, no, that was nothing, sir,” Lee said dismissively.  “It was just something old that needed a few loose ends tied up.  It’s this... person that Dom’s taken in.”

     Nelson leaned back in his chair, nodded.  This again.  Lee and Miss Simmons were both bordering on obsession with this man.  “Ah, yes.  Mister Harper.”

     Lee’s frown deepened and he said, “Have you talked to Dom about him today, now that she’s finally here and not being pawed over by Kensington?”

     Nelson fought down a grin when Lee remarked about Kensington because now he knew that Lee had been shooting visual daggers at the man for more than one reason.  “A little.  From what she’s told me, he seems harmless enough,” Nelson replied.

     Lee didn’t look reassured.  “Well, she won’t talk to me about him at all and she’s forbidden me from going to her house to make sure she’s not in any danger,” Lee said, obviously not happy about it.  “I was going to do that this weekend, but the debriefing with ONI came up Saturday morning and... well, I never got out there.  Ro says he’s a strange little man and we all know how strangeness seems to work out for us here at the Institute.”

     “I take it you’ve been to see Miss Babin this morning?” Nelson asked, rubbing his chin.

     “And got thrown out of her office for expressing my concern over her safety!” Lee declared, plainly affronted.

     Nelson stifled most of a laugh at seeing Captain Crane being so protective.  “Lee, Miss Babin is a grown woman.  We can’t regulate who she allows in her home.  Where would it end?  Background checks on boyfriends?  Frisking down men she meets casually?”

     “Not if Patterson would step up to the plate like everyone keeps expecting him to,” Lee grumbled under his breath.

     Nelson chose not to acknowledge that comment at all.  “I know that the unknown quality of this man is worrisome, Lee, but this is Doctor Babin’s personal business.  She trusts this man, says that he intends her no harm.  Typically she’s a very good judge of character.”

     “And if this is the one time she isn’t?  I just have a very bad feeling about this,” Lee said. 

     “If it would make you feel any better, I’ll accept one of Doctor Babin’s dinner invitations and go look this fellow over for both of our peace of mind,” Nelson told him.  “Usually I get one by any given Wednesday when we’re in port.  I don’t think there’s anything to worry about.  Doctor Babin was very much her normal self this morning when I saw her, not acting like someone under threat.  Miss Simmons has spoken to Mister Harper, hasn’t she?”

     Lee’s lips pressed flat for a moment, then he sighed out, “Yes, and she says that he looks pretty harmless but that he’s odd in a way she can’t quite put a finger on.  I just don’t want whatever is giving her that feeling to turn into something dangerous.”

     “Miss Simmons and I have spoken as well and I’ve told her to tell me immediately if she thinks things are becoming at all unsafe.  Until then, we have no right interfering,” Nelson told Lee firmly.

     Lee’s frown deepened again.  “I suppose.  I just don’t have to be happy about it.”

     Nelson fought down another smile, knowing that Crane was just trying to protect his crew, not exactly odd behavior where the Seaview’s Captain was concerned.  He was about to repeat that he was keeping a watchful eye on the situation, but didn’t get a chance.  There suddenly came a terrible shrieking sound from somewhere outside the office.  He and Lee moved almost as one out of the office and both found themselves in the copy room nearby, watching as a paper shredder jammed full of pricey roses wheezed its last, a puff of smoke rising from the unit as it fell silent.  Lee cast an apprehensive glance at the Admiral, but Nelson could only chuckle.

     “Well, at least some things are still predictable,” Nelson commented.

* * *

     Dylan stood on the Command Deck alone, feeling helpless.  He didn’t like that feeling.  He was a man of action and he couldn’t do anything about his troubles.  He looked at Barris’ ship on the front view screen, where it had remained unmoving for the two days since Barris had taken Harper.  Beka, Trance and Rommie were well on their way to the planet of the Lechak Bon and Barris hadn’t seemed to have taken notice.  Dylan didn’t know if that was a good thing, if they would finally be getting some answers, or if Barris wasn’t trailing the Eureka Maru because that ship was on a pointless voyage.  It would be another two days, minimum, before Dylan would know which it was and he was already tired of waiting.

     Dylan’s frown deepened as he turned from Barris’ ship and leaned against the nearest console, feeling tired.  He had almost forced Beka to agree to get some sleep, but he wasn’t doing well taking his own advice.  He was too worried and wound up staring at the ceiling in his cabin more than actually getting any rest.  There was nothing for him to do, though.  He could only wait and watch and it irked him to no end.

     “Dylan, we have an incoming transmission,” Andromeda informed him.

     Dylan thought her voice sounded wary, but he was so tired that he was probably just reading more into things than was there.  He scrubbed a hand down his face and stood up straight, thinking he’d put on his game face for Barris, wondering what the alien was going to annoy him with now.  “Put it through,” he told his ship, wanting to get things over with.  To his surprise, a Perseid face appeared on the screen before him.  The grey faced, long chinned alien looked annoyed and Dylan found himself staring silently, totally flatfooted by the image there.

     “Captain Hunt, I am Technical Advisor Rollan.  My crew and I have come to examine the device that caused so much damage at Sinti recently,” the Perseid stated, the annoyed look remaining.

     Dylan stirred himself to the matter at hand.  He didn’t want the Perseids anywhere near Barris.  What with the space/time device that Harper had made to get the Magog in him out having wreaked havoc on Sinti only a score of days ago, Dylan didn’t want to give them any more reasons to be angry with him.  “And to that end, Technical Advisor Rollan, the device you’re inquiring about was given to Technician Rekeeb and should be on Sinti.  I was under the impression that you had everything you needed, but if I can be of any further help...” Dylan started.

     “The device will not function,” Rollan interrupted him.  “We require any other parts of it there were... inadvertently left behind, any notes on the machine, possibly use of your engineer until we can be certain as to what led to the destruction on Sinti and the death of Technical Director Hohne.”

     Dylan barely kept himself from wincing.  He knew this was going to come back at him, but he’d hoped that the apologies and assurances that he’d already given would keep it to a minimum.  At least the time/space folding device Harper had made wasn’t working.  Dylan sincerely hoped that it would never work again, considering that it nearly ripped apart a planet the last time it had been functioning.  “My engineer is... off the Andromeda at the moment and I assure you that we have already turned over everything we had along with the space folding machine.  Mister Harper said that the device burnt itself out, so it that’s probably why it won’t work.”

     Rollan’s eyes narrowed a fraction and he said, “This is unacceptable.  I will wait for your Engineer’s return and discuss this matter with him personally.  My shuttle will be arriving shortly.”  With that the transmission was cut, leaving Dylan staring at Barris’ ship again.

     “Andromeda, reestablish that link.  They can’t come here now!” Dylan declared.

     “The Perseid ship has just entered my sensor range and they are not answering hails,” Andromeda told him.

     Dylan clenched his fists and roared out his frustration.  Why did the universe hate him so much right now?  Didn’t he try to be a good guy, help people, make life generally better for everyone?  Harper would probably say something snarky like ‘welcome to my world, boss,’ but the thought did nothing to improve Dylan’s temper.  Pulling himself back under control, Dylan squeezed his closed eyes with one hand, furious with Barris for putting him in this situation.  Harper should be here, ready and able to talk techno geek to the Perseids, not a helpless slave somewhere, somewhen else.  Silently swearing hideous and painful revenge on Barris for making all this happen, he opened his eyes, saying, “It seems we’re about to have more guests, Andromeda.  Can you have some bots prepare for them?  Oh, and what have we got on hand for galaxy sized headaches?”

* * *



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Belonging, Chapter 1
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