Michelle Pichette


Chapter 15



* * *  

     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... odd.”

     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 approach it. 

     “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.

     “Nothing.  Nothing,” 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.  “Oh?”

     “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,”

Rommie 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 doing anything?”

     “No.  There’s 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?” Rommie asked.

     “Maybe.  Mostly 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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