Belonging

Chapter 2

by Michelle Pichette

 

 

* * *

     Nelson was at his desk at the Institute, reading over the initial damage report that Lee had just handed him.  It would take almost a month to repair everything, according to Miss Simmons’ best estimate, but that was to return the Seaview to better than new status.  There would be a more complete report before the day was out, but as they had just arrived at the Institute and the Seaview was being placed in her dry dock, the report Nelson had was a good indication of what they were facing.

     “I’d like to turn this,” Nelson indicated a line on the report, “over to the Institute’s engineers.  We continue to have problems with the Diving Bell’s guidance, so there must be a larger problem than just a little cable damage.  Miss Simmons has more than enough to keep her and her staff busy and I have this.”  He nodded curtly at an almost overwhelming stack of paperwork that needed his attention.  There was only so much his secretary, Katy, could rubberstamp in his absence, but that did not make Nelson any happier about the task ahead of him.

     “I know.  Mine isn’t quite that bad, but it’s bad,” Lee commiserated.

     The intercom on Nelson’s desk buzzed.  “Yes, Katy,” he responded to the sound.

    “The decorators are questioning some of your instructions for the fund raiser again.  They’re in the main conference room and are insisting that they need to speak to you personally now that you’re back.”

     Nelson knew that they had been driving Katy crazy over the telephone for days.  If the event weren’t just three days away, he would fire the troublesome people and hire new ones.  Maybe he could impress them with his displeasure if he visited it on them personally.  He was anything but pleased about having to deal with such trivialities when he’d only barely docked.  “I’ll take care of it, Katy.  Thank you,” Nelson told her, then looked up to see a smirk on Lee’s face.  “I would watch my next comment, Captain, or I might just make this your responsibility,” Nelson warned him as he rose from his desk.

     “Oh, I was just thinking that I wouldn’t want to be in those people’s shoes for all the gold in Fort Knox,” Lee said with a little laugh.  “I wonder if they realize what they’ve just called down on themselves.”

     “They couldn’t possibly,” Nelson chuckled with him as they left his office.  “Keep me posted on repairs.”

     “Of course, Admiral,” Lee said as he peeled off, heading off at a brisk pace toward the Seaview’s berth.  Nelson couldn’t ask for a better Captain or a better friend.

     Nelson continued toward the largest of the Institute’s conference rooms and mentally prepared for battle.  And what a battle it was.  Nelson deciding about half an hour into it that the decorators were insane and were trying to drag him down with them.  He came very near to firing them several times, despite the nearness of the event, but woman he was bickering with seemed to sense it and made a concession just large enough to keep him from actually doing it.  Still, Nelson was almost at his wits’ end.  How could these people be so picky about every minute detail?  It boggled the mind.  Finally, after over an hour of verbal sparing, Nelson and the decorators came to an uneasy truce and he returned to his office, poured himself a stiff drink and lit a cigarette.  He felt like he’d just run a marathon.

     “Katy, no calls for the rest of the afternoon,” he told his secretary as he leaned back in his desk chair and rubbed his forehead, eyes shut, trying to ward off a headache.

     “Yes, sir,” came Katy’s prompt reply and Nelson tried to relax a little.  Five minutes of peace was all he asked, then he would make a start on some of the government reports leering at him from his desk.

     “You look like a man that needs some good news,” came a deep, unfamiliar voice from just on the other side of his desk.  Nelson opened his eyes to find a man in one of the chairs facing him.  Of course, this was a man in apparent gender only, for the person facing him was plainly an alien.  He had greenish gray skin and boney ridges all over his face, tufts of short, black, course looking hair stuck out from between some of those ridges and out of the top of his head.  He had a small nose and small flat ears and a lipless mouth that contained lots of very pointy, yellow teeth.  The smile on the alien’s face was anything but reassuring.  “Fortunately, I am here to give you exactly that, Admiral Nelson,” the alien continued after a moment’s pause.

     Five minutes was, apparently, too much to ask, Nelson sighed to himself as he leaned forward, pushing the security buzzer under his desk.  “And you would be?”

     “I am Barris, and my crew and I have come to serve you, sir,” the alien replied quite congenially.  The fact that he wore thick, lacquered looking armor covered with ridges and spikes did not give Nelson huge sums of confidence in those words.

     “I see.  And in what capacity, exactly?” Nelson replied, leaning back in his chair and waiting.  Security would come in short order, armed for bear.  Nelson decided to keep this individual calm until then.

     “In every capacity.  I have engineers that will repair your damaged vessel in a fraction of the time currently facing you.  I have security forces that would actually be able to prevent interruptions, such as myself,” Barris gave a small, humble laugh, “from confronting you either here or on the Seaview, and warriors so that your other employees could work unmolested should someone decide to attack you.  We are the best of the universe, sir, and we have come to serve you.”

     Nelson pulled a drag off his cigarette and looked warily at Barris.  He wasn’t buying into this for a second.  Where was his security?  Nelson didn’t like to think of where Barris’ crew was and what they might be doing, thinking that might be why no one had answered his summons.  Of course, everything seemed quiet in the Institute, so perhaps nothing untold was happening.  He might as well pump Barris for information while he waited.  “And why, exactly, have you come to serve me?” Nelson asked.

     “Why, because you are a great man, Admiral Nelson.  You are a linchpin in time.  You dictate the flow of things around you and things to come.  That is something worthy of our fealty.  To serve and protect you and yours will be an honor, sir,” Barris said, his expression growing eager.  It was as if Barris thought there was no way that Nelson would refuse him.  He was about to be disappointed.

     “I... appreciate your offer, Mister Barris, but I have no openings on my staff and no room in my budget for additional expenses at the moment,” Nelson told him, hoping Barris might just go away.

     “But our services will be provided free of charge, sir.  We have no need for accommodations, as our ship will serve.  We have already acted as a guard on your behalf while your damaged vessel returned here for repairs.”  Ah.  That explained the strange sonar contact.  “And you need not worry about our presence garnering your Institute unwanted attention.  We will not be seen nor heard unless we are needed.  You have only to accept and my crew will discreetly begin their duties, sir.”

     Nelson had not been tempted by Barris, and even if he had been, there was something about the alien that raised the hairs on Nelson’s neck.  There was something sinister about Barris, and not just his appearance.  “I’m sorry, Mister Barris, but I have no use for what you are offering,” Nelson told him firmly as he rose, pushing the security buzzer again.  Why wasn’t anyone answering, he wondered.  “Now, if you will excuse me, I have a lot to get done today, none of which you could help me with.”

     “My engineers...”

     “Are not my trusted staff.  I do not like unknown quality when we are discussing the care and repair of the Seaview or any of my other assets.  If you know me as well as you claim, Mister Barris, you know that as well,” Nelson replied.  “Now, if you’ll let yourself out the way you came in, I can get some work done.”

     Barris began to look a bit put out, then rose, saying, “You will, of course, change your mind, sir.  I shall return again to speak further with you on the matter.”  With that, he seemed to dissolve before Nelson’s eyes and the black mist he became vanished.

     “Wonderful,” Nelson thought aloud, hoping that it wouldn’t be in the middle of the fund raiser.  His pushed his intercom button and said, “Katy, are you registering a security alert from my office?”

     “No, Admiral.  Is there a problem, sir?”

     Could Barris have disabled the security system somehow?  It was a reasonable assumption.  He had something about being able to function at the Institute without the outside world being aware.  “No, but I would like the system checked.”

     “I’ll have maintenance start on it immediately, sir,” Katy replied.

     “Thank you, Katy,” Nelson told her, then he sat back into his chair and rubbed his chin.  Just how much trouble was Barris going to be, he wondered.  What did the alien really want?

* * *

     Beka brought the Maru back onto the Andromeda, happy because they had been able to find everything they needed for repairs and return to the Andromeda in just a few hours.  Tyr and Trance were already off her ship and she shut down systems and put her baby to bed while the Andromeda’s service bots unloaded the supplies.  She was just opening the main airlock of the Maru when a disk was shoved directly into her face by a very perturbed looking Dylan.

     “What?” she asked with a little laugh, taking the disk and recognizing it as some music she’d bought at the little station she’d visited a few days back.  “Did you want to borrow this or something?” she asked when he stood there glaring at her.  Dylan wasn’t moving and she couldn’t get out of the Maru while he stood where he was.  And then there was that angry look.  The music on the disk couldn’t be viewed as offensive in any way that Beka could think of.  What was going on?

     “No, I wouldn’t, but I’m willing to bet you did loan it to Harper recently,” Dylan told her, his tone confirming that he was not at all a happy man.

     “Yeah, so?” Beka said with another laugh, this one slightly uncomfortable.  What was he getting at?  Had Harper been blaring it through the ship or something?  How was it her fault even if he had?

     “You didn’t run this through proper decontamination procedures.  We have those procedures for a reason, Beka.  Andromeda, kindly tell Captain Valentine what Mister Harper’s current temperature is,” Dylan ordered in his no nonsense tone.

     “One hundred and six point two,” Andromeda’s voice rang through the hanger.  If Beka hadn’t known better, she would have sworn the AI sounded ticked off.  Beka wouldn’t have blamed her if she was, because she winced when she heard the answer.

     “Oops.  It had some sort of bug on it, huh?”

     “Yes, and now my only engineer is under sedation to keep him from attempting to do his job while he body tries to fight a major lymphatic and respiratory infection.  Tries being the operative word at the moment, because the virus has totally overwhelmed him.  I seem to remember you using words to the effect of his immune system is dodgy at the best of times because of his where he spent his childhood?  We were all exposed, but none of us showed any symptoms because our immune systems could cope.  However, this got a nice, firm hold on Harper before I found out he was sick and it had already turned nasty.  If it had gone even one more hour with him pushing himself on repairs...”

     “I get it, I get it,” Beka cut him off.  She gave him what she hoped was a repentant look.  She felt repentant.  Poor Harper.  He didn’t need to be sick.  He always worked himself to near dropping when the Andromeda was damaged.  He was probably near impossible to keep still with her all banged up like she was.  “Everything that comes onto the Maru will go through proper decontamination from now on, I promise.  Harper’s going to be all right, isn’t he?”  Of course he was, Beka chided herself.  He’d lived through getting very sick with nasty stuff on Earth and on the Maru where medical resources weren’t anywhere near what they were on the Andromeda.

     “I don’t know.”  That made Beka’s heart skip a beat or two.  “The Andromeda didn’t have this particular viral strain in her medical data base, so all the vaccines and immune system boosting nanobots that I’ve been pretty much forcing down Harper’s throat since I became aware of his health problems are not doing a damn bit of good.”  Dylan’s angry expression became tempered with worry as he looked away from Beka to run a hand through his hair, which only served to make Beka a bit frantic.  She had always looked on Harper as sort of an annoying kid brother, but he was her family none the less because he was part of her crew.  Dylan had sort of adopted them all the same way, so she knew he really was terribly concerned about Harper.  “Trance is down in medical, seeing if she can come up with anything to help him.  Andromeda has managed to keep his temperature from rising anymore, but she can’t seem to make any headway against the actual infection.  He’s got a long, rough night ahead of him, at the very least.”

     Beka bit her lip.  “Is it all right if I go down and tell him I’m sorry for doing this to him?”

     Dylan’s scowl eased and he nodded.  “Don’t stay long.  He needs to use his strength to fight this thing.”  He finally moved from her path, letting her get off the Maru.

     “Of course,” Beka said and hurried to the Medical Deck.  She paused just within the door, dread forming in her as took in the scene before her.  Harper was lying on one of the bio beds, not moving or speaking, though Trance was next to him, bustling around, doing something, one of the medical bots also seeming to be busy with something nearby.  That alone told her how sick he was because Harper was never still or silent unless he was unconscious.  He looked even paler than usual.  Even his lips were white and looked a little cracked.  His eyes, though closed, looked red and puffy in contrast to his pale, drawn face.  His hair was matted back by perspiration.  Wires and tubes ran under the cold mat covering him from him chin to his toes, but he was still sweating heavily, perspiration dripping from his forehead.  Quite simply, he looked awful.

     “He’s really not up to visitors, Beka,” Trance said quietly, still busy with something or other on the far side of him.

     Harper stirred at her soft words and turned his head just a little to offer Beka a weak smile and a raspy, “Hey Bek.”  His voice was horrible, which meant his throat was probably on fire.  No wonder he hadn’t been talking to Trance.  He was so subdued, but Beka couldn’t be sure if it was wholly because he was sick or in part because of the sedation Dylan had mentioned.  Harper was usually hyperactive, even when deathly ill.  It used to drive her crazy on the Maru.

     “Hey yourself,” Beka said, coming over to him and gently running a hand over his damp hair.  The heat coming off his head almost made her pull her hand away, but she stroked his hair again, feeling all the worse for her reaction to the fever she had inflicted on him.  “Sorry about this, Seamus.”

     “Coulda happened to anybody,” Harper said hoarsely with a little grin, then he let out a deep, chesty, body-shaking cough.  Beka stroked his hair again, unable to believe she’d done this to him with just a moment’s carelessness.  She would have given anything in that moment to make him well, to fix Harper the way he always fixed the mechanical things around him, or at least make him feel more comfortable, take away some of the pain he must be in when he coughed like that.  However, she knew Trance and the Andromeda’s medical bots were doing everything that could be done for him.

     “No, really.  As soon as you’re up to it, I know where I can score all the cappuccino ice cream you could eat,” Beka told him with a forced smile.  “Probably feel great on that throat, huh?”

     “There’s some shaved ice in that cup,” Harper murmured, indicating a cup just out of his reach on a rolling tray.  With all the bustle going on around him, it had probably been pushed aside by accident.

     Beka took the hint and scooped some out and gingerly fed it into his mouth.  He looked so pathetic, she didn’t even get angry when he sucked on her fingers and gave her what she was sure he thought was a lecherous leer.  He was just trying to allay her worry by acting as much like his normal ‘if your female, I’m interested’ self as possible, she knew, but it wasn’t working.

      “Beka,” Trance said impatiently,  “He needs to sleep.”  She injected something into his neck and Harper winced and shuddered, then his features went slack again.

     “You heard the lady.  You sleep and get well,” Beka said, planting a motherly kiss on his burning forehead.

“‘Kay, Boss,” Harper whispered out, then his eyes slid shut.

     Beka stayed by him for a moment, caressing his hair tenderly one last time before looking up to Trance.  This wasn’t the same girl that she’d taken in what seemed like so long ago, but Trance was still her friend and she still cared about Harper.  She had even saved his life not that long ago when the Magog larvae that Harper had been infested with had begun to kill him.  That only made Beka feel worse about making him sick.  It was just a little over a week since he’d gotten them removed.  He didn’t need to keep having his body abused this way by others.  Harper did enough of a job on himself when he snuck off to surf some place he deemed ‘challenging,’ invariably returning all bruised and battered despite being an extremely good surfer.  Beka had never squealed on him to Dylan, much as she’d been tempted a few times.  Trance had always been willing to treat him on the sly and it hadn’t affected his work, so she had always let it go.  Beka wondered what this new Trance would do when it happened the next time, but she shrugged away the thought.  The here and now was enough to worry about.

     “You take good care of him,” Beka told Trance firmly.

     Trance gave her a ghost of a smile.  “Of course, Beka.  Don’t worry.  He’ll be all right.”

     Beka nodded, then left, knowing there wasn’t anything she could do for Harper at the moment.  She was glad she had found that ice cream when they’d gone for supplies, and thought she would bring it in from where it was hidden in her private refrigerator on the Maru.  Much as she knew Harper would enjoy it, she wished she was just giving it to him a scoop at a time  as a little reward when he did extra duty for her on the Maru, like she had originally planned.

     Poor Harper had to be miserable because he was too ill to do his job.  He lived for fixing things and right now there was a whole lot on the Andromeda that needed fixing.  That thought made Beka feel even worse.  It’s not like he got the women he so desperately chased after or the respect that Beka, at the moment, begrudgingly admitted he deserved for his skills.  How he’d kept the Maru running all those years on Sparky Cola cans and sheer enthusiasm still befuddled her some days.  No, all Harper had was the Andromeda, a place where he could shine as her sole engineer.  She tried to think of something she could do for the poor kid, something to ease her conscience.

     Then Beka smiled.  His quarters were always a disaster.  Rommie kept his work areas clean for him, but she didn’t invade the privacy of anyone’s cabin without being invited.  Harper didn’t bother about tidying up his quarters because he usually spent very little time there.  Half the time, he would crash in the cot he’d set up in one of Machine Shop seventeen’s little nooks, too exhausted to even make the effort to go to his quarters.  While she was sure that Rommie had already bombed his cot and cabin for lingering germs, but Beka was going to give him a nice, clean, comfortable place to convalesce.  She started in that direction when Tyr surfaced from somewhere and met her in the corridor.

     “Where is that boy now?  Practically nothing has been done since we left,” he snarled irritably.

     “Harper is in Medical with a hundred and six degree temperature,” Beka said, her expression daring him to say anything derogatory.

     Tyr’s angry expression eased becoming something close to concern, which Beka found touching.  Tyr had been almost kind to Harper after he’d been infested by the Magog.  Not that she would have let him, but Tyr had even promised to kill Harper quickly if he knew that there was no hope and the Magog in him threatened the rest of the Andromeda crew, which Harper certainly didn’t want.  Maybe the big guy had a soft spot in his hard, genetically perfect Nietzschean heart for Harper.

     “Is he contagious?” Tyr asked, which only served to get Beka angry at him again.

     “No,” she said, her voice dripping venom.

     Tyr didn’t seem to notice.  “When will he be well enough to work, then?”

     “Look, Anasazi, he’s really sick.  Even when he shakes this, he might not be up and around right away,” Beka told him.  Her words might not have made a difference to Tyr, but she suddenly felt much worse herself.

     “Then I had better go see what I can do to make certain we can withstand the next attack leveled at us,” Tyr said, then started off toward the Command Deck.  Beka was almost shocked.  Had Tyr just, sort of, volunteered to do some of Harper’s work?  She let out a surprised huff, then started back off to Harper’s quarters.

     When she reached Harper’s cabin, she found the door opened and a stack of clothing out in the hall.  “Doesn’t Harper ever do laundry?” Rommie complained as she carried out a shirt, holding it only in two finger tips as far from her body as possible, then dropped it on the pile.

     Damn, Beka swore to herself, Rommie had beat her to the punch.  “I bet if you check his dresser drawers, they’ll be empty.  He says he has a system, that he knows what’s clean and what’s not.  I think he just likes to nest,” Beka said, trying to make light of the situation.

     “That’s possible,” Rommie said, either not getting the joke or choosing not to acknowledge it.  “In that case, everything gets washed, just to be sure.  You do not want to know about Sparky cola can pyramid he had built in there.”              

     “I can imagine,” Beka said, then helped Rommie strip down Harper’s room.                             

     As predicted, the dresser was empty and the closet held only a pair of boots and Harper’s surfboard.  Harper’s clothes, bed linens, and towels, even his wetsuit were all carted off to be cleaned and some bots actually scrubbed down the room while Rommie and Beka tried to sort out the things that littered the floor into what was junk and what wasn’t.  There were tools everywhere, broken things that looked like they were being tinkered with, diagrams of things drawn on napkins from bars, flexies, Sparky cola cans both full and empty, sealed ration packs but thankfully no open ones, small nicknacks from tourist traps, even a surfing trophy that Beka hadn’t known that he had won, all mixed in with movie and music disks and a couple of cheesy, racy novels.  The surprising thing was, there was actually very little in the room that could clearly be labeled as trash, namely afore mentioned pyramid and the other empties that were probably being saved to form the next level.

     “Gee, who would have thought that the guy who walked off of Earth content with just what was in his pockets would become such a packrat,” Beka commented as they surveyed the piles that they had made of the things that most people didn’t keep in their rooms and therefore did not have a definitive place.

     “So what do we keep and what do we dispose of?” Rommie asked.

     “He won’t be happy about it, but the empty Sparky cans should go,” Beka replied.

     “And the full ones.  It’s a vile substance that is not good for his health,” Rommie said, glaring at the offending beverage with distaste.

     “He loves the stuff and it’s not illegal, so it gets to stay,” Beka said.  She was rather surprised that there was no alcohol in Harper’s quarters.  He’d been doing a lot of drinking when he’d been infested.  It had hurt Beka to see him drunk and suicidal much of the time while he waited, with very little hope, for the medicine he was taking to stop working and for the Magog larvae to wake up and start eating him alive.  She should have done something to reassure him, to remind him that he wasn’t as alone as he probably felt he was, but she hadn’t.  Another thing she felt guilty over, despite Harper’s eventual rescue from that grisly fate.  “We can put it and the food into the cupboard there.”  She indicated where she meant, not about to give any clue as to what she was currently thinking.

     “What about the rest?” Rommie asked.

     Beka shrugged.  “We box the piles and put them in the closet.  Heaven forbid we toss out the plans for the Harper Teleport Pad or the start of your little brother.”

     “The Andromeda cannot support any additional avatars,” Rommie stated empathically.  “It would confuse the system.”

     Beka groaned.  “It was a joke.”

     “Ah,” Rommie replied without emotion.  “And I’ll put his clothing in his dresser and closet once everything has been cleaned.  He can toss them around the room when he feels up to it.”

     Beka laughed, thinking Rommie was trying to make a joke, but the questioning look the avatar gave her indicated that was not the case.  “Oookay,” Beka said, wondering if she should talk to Harper about programming a sense of humor into Rommie.  They’d been at their task for a few hours, so Beka asked, “How’s he doing, anyway?”

     Rommie got a distant look on her face for a moment, then said,  “His temperature is down to a hundred and four point seven and some of the congestion has cleared, but the virus is not dying off in him.  Trance says it looks like it’s trying to regroup for another surge.”

     “Poor kid,” Beka sighed.  “I used to hate it when Harper got sick on the Maru.  He wouldn’t rest unless I forced him to, which just made him sick for longer.  He’d say he had to keep moving because Rev was looking at him like he was the slow antelope in the herd.”  Saying that made Beka miss Rev Bem, the Magog Wayist Reverend that had been a part of her crew and life for so long.  She wondered if he was all right some times, wherever he had gone to follow his precious Way.  She shouldn’t be jealous of a religion, she supposed, but she hated how Rev’s faith had taken him away from them.

     “Well, he’ll rest here, even if I have to keep him sedated to make sure he does,” Rommie said firmly as she began to pack parts into a box.  Beka raised an eyebrow at her, because she had actually heard concern in Rommie’s voice.  Rommie seemed to catch sight of her look and said, “Beka, he’s my engineer.  If he’s ill, he can’t keep me running at peek efficiency, so I’m going see to it that he is fully well as quickly as possible.”

     “Did I say anything?” Beka asked, the picture of innocence.

     “You thought something,” Rommie accused.  “I don’t like being damaged, as I am now.  And there’s the sensor contact.  I don’t like that either.”

     Beka’s brow knit.  “What sensor contact?”

     “We keep getting a brush along our aft sensors.  I can’t get a lock or an identification on it,” Rommie said.

     “Maybe it’s a glitch,” Beka suggested.

     “Harper didn’t get a chance to go over my sensors, so that’s possible, but it seems unlikely,” Rommie said.  “Dylan doesn’t seem concerned about an attack.  He says that unless it’s a ship full of lunatics, they would have hit us when they first sighted us.”

     “Maybe they don’t know we’re damaged.”

     “I doubt it.”

     “Have we tried hailing them?”

     “Dylan wants to wait until we’re able to defend ourselves, just in case.”

     Beka shrugged.  “That makes sense.  I could take the Maru out to the area and look around.”

     “We could have done that with drones, but Dylan wanted...”

     “...to wait until we could defend ourselves.  Right.  So we wait.  I hate waiting and now all I can do is wait.  Aaurgh!”

     “The automated systems are working on getting me fully functional.  Harper had already fixed some of the more difficult systems and I got slipstream running an hour ago, not that we would want to use it before a few more of the hull breaches have been repaired.  Everything will come back online, but it will take time.”

     “How much time?”

     “My current estimate is six days fifteen hours twenty seven minutes, but Tyr and Dylan are working on me, so perhaps a little sooner,” Rommie said.

     When Harper had dictated his needed supplies list, he’d said that he once he had everything he would have the Andromeda good as new in two days, two and a half tops, but he knew what he was doing and the best way to allocate resources, somehow managing to do better than Rommie in that respect.   And, of course he would be hard at work, probably for the majority of the two days, denying himself sleep and a lot of other basic necessities because, as he would say, 'Rommie needs me!'  Beka mentally kicked herself again as she moved the last of the boxes into the closet and closed the door.  Harper’s room was nice and clean, but strangely empty now, the surfing trophy on the shelf near the closet the only thing to indicate that someone actually lived here.

     “He needs some pictures or something,” Beka mused aloud.  “Something with some color.”

     “Maybe that’s why he keeps his wardrobe on the floor.  For color,” Rommie suggested.  Beka laughed and Rommie gave her another tightlipped look because she obviously didn’t see the humor in what she’d just said.  Yes, Beka decided, she was going to have to ask Harper about a sense of humor upgrade for Rommie.

* * *

 

 

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