* * *
The day had barely started and Admiral Nelson was already tired of
looking at paperwork. He wanted it done so that he could move on to more
interesting things, the Flying Sub refit most specifically. That was why he had come in extra early to tackle it in the
first place. He glanced at
the now dwindling stack, thinking that he had earned a little break. He was about to reach for a cigarette when there came a knock
at his office door. He
glanced at his clock and saw that it was just past eight, so Katy
wouldn’t be in. Sighing,
thinking it was most likely Portman back to go on about viruses again,
Nelson steeled himself and said, “Come.”
To his surprise, Miss Simmons entered, holding what looked
to be a cd player and looking rather concerned.
“Admiral, I don’t know how to put this delicately, so I’m
going to come right out and say it. I’m
worried about Dom’s little houseguest.
I still don’t think he’s dangerous, but I think something is
seriously wrong with him psychologically,” she said, then set the cd
player on his desk.
“And what makes you think that?
Dominica hasn’t told me of any problems with him.
In fact, she’s said that he’s been eager to do anything and
everything he can to thank her for opening her home to him,” Nelson
replied. He didn’t say a
thing about the fact that he intended to invite himself over to dinner if
Doctor Babin hadn’t done so by the end of the day so that he could look
into this Harper person himself, if only to still the tide of people
coming into his office with concerns over this man.
Even Sharkey had been in yesterday, telling him that some of the
men were very worked up over the matter.
Of course, Sharkey must have had concerns too, because he offered
to go around to Doctor Babin’s house and straighten out ‘this whole
Harper business.’ Nelson
wondered if Doctor Babin was fully aware of all the people ready to rush
to her aid at the moment.
“I know, but I got to talk to him on Sunday and he’s...
Nelson leaned back in his seat. Lee
had told him that Miss Simmons thought that yesterday and he began to
wonder what Miss Simmons considered odd.
“How do you mean?”
“Well, he asked me if getting two dollars to do an oil
change on a car was good if the person paying provided parts and supplies,
then he asked if two dollars was a lot of money.
I honestly don’t think he knew.
I asked him some things about his life and he seemed willing enough
to talk, but it was like he was leaving things out on purpose.
He told me he’d been homeless his entire life, that he lived for
a while on a ship called the Eureka Maru, then on another called the
Andromeda Ascendant, that he fixed things on the ships, but didn’t say
where the ships hailed from. I
can’t find either on any ship’s registry, so I don’t know if he made
up the names or if they were being used in... less than legal operations.
He says that he has no Social Security Number, no record of birth,
nothing. He essentially
doesn’t exist if that’s true, though, in his defense, if he has lived
the horrible life he says he has, that might be possible.
It’s more likely, though, that he isn’t who he says he is, that
he doesn’t know who he really is or where he’s from so he’s made
everything up. I think
that’s the case because of this.”
She indicated what she had placed on his desk.
Nelson raised an eyebrow at her.
“A cd player?”
“It was a broken one that Dom had in her garage.
He changed it to make a present for her.
She brought it in this morning and couldn’t wait to show it to
around. Open it.”
Nelson opened the player only to have the small, red lazar
light come to life immediately. Somehow, it formed into a tiny dragon that reared up, took
flight, roared quite realistically, breathed fire at some unseen foe, then
set down again to repeat the cycle. The
tiny figure was amazingly lifelike and Nelson was astounded.
He’d seen holograms before, but nothing like this.
He leaned forward to get a closer look and rubbed his chin,
watching it for a few cycles. “Do
you know how it works?” he asked Miss Simmons.
She was an amazing engineer, his peer in that regard, so he would
take her expert opinion on the projector before poking at it himself.
He certainly didn’t want to break it.
He’d never seen anything near its equal.
“Haven’t the foggiest.
I opened it up and its almost like looking at alien technology,”
she replied. “And this is
from someone who said that he’s never been to school, not any
school, and taught himself everything he knows.
I don’t see how that’s possible after looking at that hologram. I think either he was more badly hurt than he thinks during
the beating he got and he’s suffering from some sort of amnesia or
he’s mentally ill and doesn’t have a firm grasp of reality.
Either way, I think he needs more help than Dom can give him.
Qualified medical, possibly psychiatric, help.”
Nelson gently closed the cd player, thinking seriously on
what Miss Simmons had just said. It
was possible that this Harper was self educated.
That wasn’t unheard of, even in this day and age.
And people with little or no education were capable of astonishing
brilliance. Harper might very
well be gifted. Was he
mentally ill? That worried
Nelson a little. He didn’t
want to leave Doctor Babin open to danger, even if it was her choice to
have Harper in her home. Then
there were legal issues to consider.
“We can’t force medical attention on him.”
“Unless he is incompetent or mentally unstable and
therefore unable to make rational decisions for himself.”
She really did seem concerned.
That concern made him reassess the situation and how he intended to
“I think I should go talk to the man myself a little sooner than
I intended,” Nelson told her. “If he doesn’t seem all right to me, I’ll see if I can
persuade him into coming to the Institute with me to have Doctor Jamieson
look at him. If he comes
willingly, there isn’t a problem. If
he won’t and I think you’re right about his mental state, I promise
that I won’t try to drag him in personally.
I’ll call out some help and bring him here, then deal with any
legal fallout later. Honestly,
if that becomes necessary, I’d be more worried about Doctor Babin than
the Civil Liberties Union. She’s
fond of this man and I don’t think she would be very happy with either
of us if she thought we were going behind her back to do him harm.”
“She’ll forgive us,” Miss Simmons said, sounding
relieved. “Please don’t
misunderstand, Admiral. I
don’t have anything against Harper personally.
It’s just that I don’t want him to hurt himself or Dom, even
though I don’t think he would do either thing intentionally. Besides, if he’s brilliant enough to make something like
that,” she nodded at the cd player on his desk, “out of trash and odds
and ends, he shouldn’t be living on the street.”
“I agree,” Nelson said, then stood, picking up the cd
player and turning it gently in his hands. It looked like any other ordinary cd player, no outward sign
that it had been modified readily apparent.
That meant Harper had managed to keep his projection unit and its
workings incredibly small. He
could certainly think of a few projects that he would happily turn that
sort of resourcefulness loose on. “Perhaps
that’s the solution to the entire dilemma,” he muttered to himself.
“Sir?” Miss Simmons asked.
Nelson said. He put on his
jacket, then slid the player into the pocket. “Hmm. Do you
suppose Mister Harper would find a uniform intimidating?”
Miss Simmons nodded as she walked with Nelson to his office
door. “He seems a little
nervous in general, but he’s downright terrified of medical doctors.
I mean, all I did was try to impress on him how important it was as
he see a doctor soon, that he could have internal injuries from his
beating that he’s unaware of, and his eyes glazed over and he started to
shake at the thought of it. I think someone might have done something to him, Admiral,
something horrible. Look at
the thing in his neck if you get a chance and you’ll see what I mean.
I thought it was just some sort of weird piercing at first, but the
more I think about it, the more sinister it seems.”
“It wouldn’t be the first time that we’ve come across
a victim of some deranged scientist’s experimentation.
Let’s just hope that’s not the case,” Nelson said as he
showed Miss Simmons out the door. He
would go home and change, then go to Doctor Babin’s house to meet this
Seamus Harper. He set a hand
on the cd player and sincerely hoped that Miss Simmon’s fears were
unfounded. There was one
preliminary step he could take and he turned to his computer and punched
up an employee file. Nelson
scanned it, found the telephone number he wanted, then dialed it.
“Hello,” he responded to the person on the line.
“I would like to speak to Antoinette Babin, please.”
Beka pulled the Eureka Maru out of Slipstream and sighed.
They were getting closer to the planet of the Lechak Bon, but not
quickly enough for her liking. Now
that she’d slept and eaten a little, she was beginning to think Dylan
had sent her off to give her something to do besides worry.
Still, she didn’t have any better ideas of how to get Harper
home, so she was going to get to this planet and get some information.
The Lechak Bon might tell them out to deal with Barris, get him to
bring Harper back. Any chance
of that was worth the time and effort.
Rommie wandered up next to Beka and said, “I think
Dylan’s regretting sending me with you.”
Beka raised an eyebrow.
“It seems some Perseids have docked with the Andromeda and
refuse to leave until they speak to Harper or have a functioning
space/time folding device. Dylan’s
says to hurry and get Harper back, because otherwise we’re all doomed to
die by geek assault,”
told her. Beka let out a
little laugh, unable to help herself.
She must still be tired, she thought.
“Tell him we will be to the planet soon,” Beka replied,
guiding them through a tricky patch of space, thinking things would get
trickier as they got still closer to their destination.
“What about Barris? He
been nothing further from Barris,” Rommie reported.
Beka scowled just thinking about the alien.
As soon as she had Harper safely back and protected, she would show
Barris what happened with you messed with a Valentine.
“Do you think the Abyss is pulling his strings?” Beka asked,
having worried about it a little since waking.
“I don’t know. It hasn’t showed it’s hand yet, but that doesn’t mean
the Abyss isn’t behind this,” Rommie answered.
Beka sighed. “I wish Rev was here.”
“You think Barris would find a Magog intimidating?”
I wish he was here give advice and to be reassuring and tell us of the
path along the Way is bumpy and that the Divine will guide us through it
all and stuff like that,” Beka admitted.
She could use that sort of encouragement at the moment.
Rommie, being a machine, probably didn’t have a clue as to what
she was talking about. Beka
wasn’t religious and usually didn’t play much attention to Rev’s
little sermons, at least not in the fore part of her thoughts.
Now that things seemed so far out of her control, some of Rev’s
words where springing up from the back of her mind, like he was still
there for her. Rev was gone,
though, having disappeared silently from the Andromeda, leaving a recorded
good-bye and nothing else. It
had been confusing and upsetting and Beka probably would have gone after
him if Harper’s Magog larvae hadn’t picked that moment to start
ignoring the medication he’d been taking to keep them dormant and start
eating their way out of him.
That cheery thought gave Beka shivers.
Harper always managed to survive every terrible thing that happened
to him, but not unscathed. Never
unscathed. He always got badly hurt or terribly ill or tormented in some
horrible way. After, he would
smile and say it wasn’t so bad and go back to being his annoyingly perky
self, but sometimes Beka couldn’t help but wonder what kind of toll all
the pain Harper had gone through was taking on him in the places he never
let anyone see. He did that,
she knew, internalized, hid the majority of his suffering.
He was so verbose that most people didn’t see what was happening,
but she knew. Beka went back
to worrying about him, wondering what horrors he was enduring this time
that he would never tell her about. She
would get him back, but how much more internal scarring would he have by
the time she did? Gritting
her teeth, Beka scanned their route, trying to think of some way of
getting to their destination more quickly, swearing bloody revenge on
Barris and anyone else that dare put more scars on her friend.
“We’re coming, Seamus,” she muttered to herself.
“Keep your head down. We’re
coming.” Empty words, she knew, but for the moment they were all she
had to cling to.
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