* * *
Portman had worked long and hard on his new list of chores for
Harper, finally satisfied when it ran several pages.
It had taken him a while to think up the worst possible assignments
that could be equated to the Engineering department, but it would do for
now. He had to think of a way
of convincing Harper that he owed time to the entire Institute, then some
really disgusting, backbreaking jobs would make their way into Harper’s
duties, just none near Dominica. No,
Harper being near Dominica had to end immediately and being reminded of
his place socially should do that nicely.
Portman smiled at the thought of that, tapping his list neat and
going in search of the little vagrant again.
After looking everywhere for Harper and not finding him,
Portman found himself back in the darkened lab where Harper had been
doodling earlier. There was
another drawing started on the drafting board and Portman flicked on the
lights to see what the lazy illiterate was wasting time with.
His eyes moved over the schematics for some sort of reactor,
probably something that Harper was trying to use to convince the Admiral
to allow him to stay. Portman
scanned the diagram for a while, thinking he would find design flaws and
foolishness everywhere in the work, but to his increasing irritation, the
schematic seemed fine. Better
than fine, actually, which pushed irritation to nervousness.
As Portman looked the work over, he found himself not
understanding half of it. Portman
wanted to assign that to ill done diagraming or a faulty design, but it
wasn’t that at all. What he
was looking at was brilliant and worse yet he knew it wasn’t complete.
A lot of the finer details had yet to be filled in, details that
might have given Portman a better idea what the device did.
At that moment, he couldn’t be sure simply because a lot of what
Harper had drawn was beyond him. It
was an engine or a reactor or something of that nature, but Portman
couldn’t quite grasp what, exactly, it was or how it worked.
Scowling, Portman thought about taking the sketch and tearing it to
shreds. It would serve the
little street rat right. The
uneducated, little vagrant should be emptying wastebaskets, not shaming
real engineers that worked hard to be where they were.
Then Portman smiled as inspiration struck again.
He picked up the pencil from where it lay on the bottom of the
drafting board. So, Harper wanted to embarrass people? Let him see what it felt like.
* * *
Harper woke up screaming.
The room was dark and unfamiliar and it took him a moment to
realize that he was at the Institute. He’d been having the Magog dream again and he lay
shivering, reminding himself that the Magog weren’t a worry anymore,
that they were thousands of years away.
He rubbed his stomach, where he had once carried Magog larvae.
Sometimes he couldn’t believe they were really gone.
It was almost as if they would start nibbling away at him again,
slowly killing him. It wasn’t like he didn’t have nightmares almost
constantly anyway, but he really hated the Magog ones.
Trying to forget about it, he thought about waking up with Dom
cuddled up to him. He’d
slept so well that night. He
lay back, trying to recapture that safe, blissful feeling, but as he
started to drift off, monsters were waiting for him and he startled fully
awake again. He glanced at
the little clock on the dresser. It was just after three in the morning, but he knew that he
wasn’t going to sleep anymore, so he got up, had a shower to calm
himself down, then went in search of coffee.
To his amazement, he found some freshly brewed in the
cafeteria. Apparently he
wasn’t the only early riser around.
Armed with a large mug, he went to his lab and figured he’d start
back to work on the schematics he was drawing for the Admiral.
He was spoiled by the flexies of the Andromeda.
He’d sketch in his designs and the little computer would neaten
them right up for him. Having
to do it all by hand was tough, but he persevered. He looked at what
he’d finished so far, thinking that would be awfully nice to have just
one flexi right now. He
rubbed his eyes, thinking that he was still more asleep than he’d
thought because something about his schematic didn’t look right.
The lines were fuzzy and Harper didn’t think they had been when
he had left rather abruptly last night.
Carefully setting down his coffee, Harper leaned close to the
drawing and squinted. Written
in very tiny letters all along the main lines of his sketch were the
words: I am a fraud.
“What the hell?” he murmured. Someone
had messed with his schematic? Why
would anyone do that and in such a weird way?
Sitting back as he surveyed the damage, Harper dragged a hand back
through his hair, trying to make sense of what was in front of him.
Crane might have been mad at him about the yelling and the shoving,
but Harper couldn’t see him taking revenge in such a strange way.
Who would take the time to do something like this?
Harper frowned. Only one name came to mind: Portman. Why would Portman want to spend all the time this would have
taken to actually do it? It
made no sense. Of course,
neither did the whole ‘intern’ prank yesterday.
Harper closed his eyes and groaned.
It had taken hours to get everything in front of him drawn, and
that wasn’t even counting the schematic that had gotten ruined when
Portman had surprised him. Determined,
Harper grabbed his pencil and swung its eraser into action.
He was not redoing all this work again.
No way, no how.
It took him four pencils worth of erasing and way too much
time to fix everything. Harper
had run out of curse words about midway through the second pencil.
Now that he was finally done, Harper shrugged off his annoyance,
thinking that fixing the schematic was a lot easier than doing delicate
repairs while he was being thrown around in the middle of an attack on the
Andromeda. A whole lot more
annoying, sure, but not as hard. Reaching for his coffee, Harper thought about the number of
times he’d been tossed into the walls of the service ducts so hard that
he’d feared that he’d heard bones break, which he’d been correct
about a couple times, or had almost been suffocated because the Andromeda
suddenly lost pressure where he happened to be working.
Portman’s dumb pranks might be frustrating, but at least they
weren’t physically painful or life threatening.
Harper decided he could cope and took a sip of his coffee, only to
almost choke on it because it was ice cold now.
Rolling his eyes, figuring that this was how his day was going to
go, Harper put the cup back down and set back to actually getting
something new done on his schematic.
He glanced at the clock. It
was just edging past four thirty. Sighing,
Harper hoped he could actually finish this main schematic so that he could
move on the ones that would detail the reactor’s individual systems and
hand them all over to the Admiral. He
was pretty sure his work would be safe from Portman in the Admiral’s
He’d been at it for a while when he heard, “Don’t you
ever sleep?” He turned to
see the Admiral approaching him, carrying two coffee mugs, then glanced up
to see it was almost six forty five.
No wonder he’d gotten so much done, he thought with satisfaction
as he turned off the music he’d started playing a while ago.
For some reason, being pretty much alone in the Institute had
started to creep him out a while ago and the music had helped quell that
feeling. He also wondered if
the Admiral was checking up on him. He
thought it was awfully early for most people to be up and at work.
“I sleep,” Harper replied with a shrug as he turned all
the way around. “I just
save most of it up for when I’m sick, then I sleep a lot all at once.”
The Admiral gave him that careful look that he got when he
was most likely trying to decide how much of what he’d just been told
was true and how much was kidding around.
He handed Harper one of the mugs, seeming to let it go.
“Well, if you don’t want to wind up sealed in a sterile room, I
wouldn’t suggest getting sick in the near future,” Nelson told him.
“Doctor Jamieson does not trust your nanobots and a nice, raging
case of the flu would be all the evidence he would need to prove to
himself that more conventional methods of care were required.”
Harper grimaced at the thought of what conventional methods
of care might entail. “I’ll
be good, honest. Lots of
orange juice and vitamins and Dom makes sure I eat at least one decent
meal a day, one full of vegetables and not the fried kind.”
Nelson nodded and gave Harper a long look of concern.
“Everything is all right between the two of you?”
Now Harper understood the look.
Great. He’d been
hoping to put this off or not have to deal with it at all.
So much for that vain hope. “Oh.
Captain Crane went to see you after he saw me, huh?
Probably couldn’t wait to tell you that I shoved him,” Harper
pouted sullenly. Now was when
he got it with both barrels.
“You shoved Captain Crane?” Nelson asked incredulously.
Harper gave him an uncomfortable, ‘please don’t yell at
me’ pained expression and cringed a little, figuring that he’d get
yelled at anyway. Damn, he
wouldn’t have said anything if he hadn’t thought that Crane had.
Okay, okay, maybe he could cover.
He hadn’t taken a swing at Crane, after all, much as he’d felt
like doing so at the time. “He
made my gal cry and I had a momentary loss of self-preservation instincts.
After I had a chance to think about it, I was sort of surprised
that I’m not a smudge on the floor.
I know I shouldn’t have and that you need to reprimand me or
suspend me or ...”
The Admiral’s face became dark with repressed anger and
Harper figured he was really in for it, so he’d started to babble.
“Lee made Dominica cry?” The
Admiral interrupted abruptly. He
did not sound at all pleased. Harper
felt his stomach sink. He’d
thought that was why the Captain had gone to the Admiral, otherwise he
would have kept that part, especially, to himself.
Now Crane was really going to kill him the next time he saw him for
ratting on him. “By telling her that you were sick, I assume.
He left out that detail when he told me that he inadvertently
caused an argument between the two of you.
He also failed to mention that he had driven you to the point of...
shall we say less than advisable actions.”
Panic tried to seize Harper, but he shook it off, thinking that he
had to fix this fast.
“The crying, it was sort of an accident on his part and I
overreacted. I don’t always
think before I act when I’m worked up.
Usually, I mouth off and get clobbered, but Captain Crane didn’t
lay a hand on me, honest. Granted,
I think he thought that he’d break me if he did and I don’t think he
wanted to do that even after I pushed him.
I shouldn’t have done that.
It was stupid of me. I’ll
apologize for it. That and
the yelling. I yelled, by the
way. Ranted would probably be
more accurate. My bad,
really, when you think about it. I’ll
go apologize, okay? Should I
go to his office and wait for him to come in?” Harper asked with a
pained look, ready and willing to assume the blame for what had happened.
He really didn’t want to cause friction between the Captain and
the Admiral. He knew they
were close. Damn, him and his
big mouth. When would he
“That won’t be necessary.
You aren’t the one at fault.
Lee will be in later to formally apologize to both you and
Dominica,” Nelson told Harper, his tone still very displeased.
Harper drew in a sharp breath, barely restraining a squeak
of alarm. That was the last
thing he needed! “Please
don’t do that,” he said quickly.
“He already hates me! I
don’t want to give him tangible reasons.
And Dom might start thinking about what made her upset again and I
don’t want that. She seemed
to have forgotten all about it when she dropped me off last night and you
don’t want to know what I had to do to accomplish that.
So, please, please, can’t we forget this whole thing?”
Nelson took a deep breath and let it out slowly, visibly
reigning in his anger. “I’ll
let it go this time, since you’ve asked me to.
Next time, you and Lee will sit in my office until you can be civil
to each other.”
“So in other words forever,” Harper only half joked,
then drank a little of the hot coffee the Admiral had given him.
Good coffee makes everything better.
“I fail to see why the two of you can’t get along,”
Nelson declared, but he had walked over to the drafting board and was
looking what Harper had done. He
was glad he was nearly finished with this page.
“Well, I can be pretty annoying and sometimes, to be
honest, when I know someone is never going to like me, I enjoy pushing
their buttons,” Harper admitted.
“And what, pray tell, did you do to push Captain Crane’s
buttons?” Nelson said, correctly assuming that he had.
“When he talks to me in his all business mode, which is
all the time, I’ve been Mister Sunshine and pretended not to notice that
he’s grinding his teeth. Then
I got tired of it because,” no, he was not going to tell the Admiral
what the Captain had said about how he didn’t know what Dom saw in him
at the Diving Bell, even though it still irked him, “... Well, you know,
I had stuff to do and I... uh... sort of asked him if he was done showing
me he was Seaview’s Alpha Male?”
Nelson glanced back at him, raising an eyebrow, then looked
back at the schematics. “For
the record, I
am Seaview’s Alpha Male. If
you’re going to use the term, use it properly.”
“Okay, Boss,” Harper said sheepishly.
“No more baiting Captain Crane, Seamus.
I mean it,” Nelson told him sternly.
Before Harper could agree to that, not at all certain he could keep
that promise, the Admiral turned and looked at him, smiling a little and
said, “And I see you’ve been hard at work here.
Much better than the original effort.
I have a few questions about what you’re planning, but they might
very well explain themselves once you have finished.
How long will it take you have these schematics ready to be
“Well,” Harper said, then rubbed the back of his neck,
thinking for a moment about complaining about what Portman had done to
him. No, he told himself
firmly, he would settle things with Portman in his own way when the time
was right. He could fight his
own fights. Still, even if he
dragged everything up to his room at night from here on out, he’d better
allow for more trouble. “I’m
not very fast with a pencil...”
“And you have to do the final design over in pen so we
don’t have anyone deciding to alter your design,” the Admiral informed
him. Harper swore in his
head, beginning to hate this part of his new job.
He would make sure that anything he did in ink was
well away from tampering. “But
that will be after we go over the preliminary sketches that you’re
working on. My approval is
required on each step of all projects at the Institute before they are
carried forward, especially to the blueprint stage.”
Much as he disliked having to do all this paperwork, Harper
could understand that. The
Admiral didn’t want anyone rushing things and blowing up the Institute
by accident. Considering his
track record, it was probably a good thing that the Admiral was making him
go slow. “And after you
approve design, I’ll have to custom machine the whole thing...”
“You can go over what you want with the machinists.
That’s what the schematics and blueprints are for.
Isn’t that standard procedure in the future?” Nelson asked.
“Uh, there was only me for repairs and stuff on the Maru
and the Andromeda, if you don’t count the bots, which were pretty good
helpers, but not for special jobs like this.
It’s not like I could delegate a lot of stuff,” Harper said
with a shrug and another pained smile.
Nelson seemed to consider something for a moment.
“How large is the Andromeda, Seamus, if you don’t mind me
Admiral was trying not to press, but Harper could see how curious he was
and decided he trusted him enough to be candid about some of the things he
knew. He was not going to get
into nova bombs or slip fighters, but he didn’t think a little general
stuff was dangerous. “She
has a nine hundred and seventy six meter beam.
The Seaview would fit in the hanger,” he said with a little grin.
Nelson looked surprised then concerned.
“And you were her only engineering staff?”
Harper started to remind him about the bots, but Nelson seemed to
anticipate it saying, “Her only living engineering staff?”
Harper shrugged again still smiling.
“Desperate times and all that.
Good thing I’m hyperactive, huh?”
“Well, you don’t have to do everything for yourself
here. Kindly keep that in
mind. I don’t want you to
wear yourself out or make yourself ill.
Think of being confined to a small, sterile space under constant
doctor’s care if you’re tempted,” Nelson said.
Harper shivered, not liking that thought at all, and nodded.
Nelson clasped him by the shoulder in a friendly manner.
“Good. Join me for
breakfast, Mister Harper.” It
was not a suggestion, despite the friendly tone.
Harper went along without resistence, but asked, “What
makes you think I haven’t eaten yet?”
Nelson let out a small good natured laugh.
“Because I remember how I was when I was your age.”
Harper suddenly found himself smiling, really smiling, not
just doing it because he thought he ought to or didn’t know what else to
do. The Admiral was comparing
himself to him. That was so
“And how long are we looking at before you will be ready
with the specifications for the machinists?” Nelson asked again.
Harper felt like arguing that he didn’t mind doing things
for himself, but shrugged off the desire.
He was supposed to be part of a team.
The other engineers had given him looks like he was a particularly
nasty bug when the Admiral had introduced him around, and Harper didn’t
even want to think about Portman, but the machinists might be cool.
Maybe he’d make some friends, like the Admiral had said.
Dom said one of her friends from the Seaview liked to surf.
Maybe there was potential there.
Time to get a life. “I
should be able to talk over some preliminary specs with them this morning,
if that’s okay. Let them
know what I’m looking for so they can let me know if there’s going to
be problems on their end, y’know, so we can work all that out before
we’re anywhere near building the prototype.
I was going to make our prototype smallish, about the size of a car
engine, if that’s okay,” Harper said.
“And what sort of power output are you estimating?”
“I have to do the math out on paper, but I’m thinking it
might be as much as...” Harper started, then they entered the cafeteria,
which had a glass ceiling, and he saw the sunrise.
All the colors, the way the clouds looked, the blue just starting
to form in the sky, it was just so beautiful.
Harper froze, transfixed by the sight.
“Seamus,” the Admiral’s voice broke into his reverie.
“Are you all right?”
Harper turned his attention to the Admiral, who looked a
little concerned. He wondered
how long he had been standing there.
The Admiral’s expression did not ease.
“By the sunrise?”
Harper shrugged and glanced around.
No one else was in the room at the moment.
“I haven’t gotten used to it yet.
It wasn’t like this... the last time I was here,” Harper said,
hoping the Admiral would understand.
The Admiral escorted him to a table and sat him down.
“Tell me about it,” he encouraged him quietly once they were
both seated. “What was the sunrise like when you were growing up?”
Harper pursed his lips and tried to roll sudden tension out
of his shoulders, looking down at the coffee mug between his hands.
“I never saw a sunrise like the one today until I was off planet.
You didn’t see the sky much on Earth, not if you were smart.
Seeing the sky meant being outside, in the open, not safe, which
would explain why I was totally hung up on it.
See, I was a sickly kid and I figured I wasn’t going to live to
be a sickly adult, not the way the adults talked when they thought I
couldn’t hear them. I did a
lot of stuff I wasn’t supposed to, ‘cause I thought it didn’t
matter. So whenever my
parents, or later my aunt and uncle or Brendan, weren’t looking, I’d
sneak off, find some cover, and watch the clouds move across the sky.
They were brown and ugly, like someone had thrown oil slicked mud
into the sky, and it was always cloudy, but every once in a while, if you
watched really close, the sun’s rays would peek through, just for a few
seconds. I’d watch to see
where the rays fell, because, in my stupid, little kid mind, that had to
be a special place, a magical place, and I’d try to find the spot.
I never found anything but trouble, especially when I got back to
wherever home was at the moment, but it didn’t keep me from doing it
whenever I could.” He got
misty eyed talking about it, then shook it off.
How could he remember something so pathetic so tenderly?
“What can I get for you this morning, Admiral?” someone
asked. Harper looked up.
He hadn’t noticed one of the cafeteria staff come up to the
table. He thought this was a
serve yourself place, but he supposed the Admiral got special treatment.
The Admiral ordered food for both of them as Harper fought down the
urge to panic about talking so openly about the future.
The attendant smiled warmly at Harper just before going to put in
the Admiral’s order. Most
everyone was so friendly, Harper mused as he calmed.
He didn’t know if he could get used to it.
“And what was so dangerous about being out in the open?”
Nelson asked once they were alone again.
Harper shrugged, looking down again.
“In Dunwich, Magog mostly.”
would eat anything that had a heartbeat or lay eggs in you.
My mom would always strip me down and check me over like Doctor
Jamieson did, terrified I’d gotten myself infested.
Not that she could’ve done anything about it if I had.
The larvae would grow pretty quick and eat you out from the inside
and there wasn’t any way to get them out.
I didn’t think it would matter much if I did get infested.
I was a bother, a burden. I
was sick all the time, which meant my parents had to scrounge up medicine
or something to trade at the clinics to get me well, which was a lot of
work for them on top of finding food and shelter and stuff.
When I wasn’t sick, I couldn’t sit still and stay safe like I
was supposed to. I thought no
one would care if I died. A
quick ‘oh well,’ then life goes on a little more easily ‘cause I
wasn’t there making it harder. Then
it happened to two of my cousins and...”
Harper felt his grip on the mug tighten involuntarily and he choked
down the rage and pain the memory brought out in him.
Suddenly, the Admiral’s hand was on his forearm, squeezing
gently. He looked up and met
the Admiral’s worried eyes. “I
can’t imagine...” the older man started, his voice thick with emotion.
Harper shook his head, as if to deny how horrible his
childhood had been. “Hey, I
got through it. No big
Nelson’s mouth tightened, but then his expression relaxed
and he patted Harper’s arm. “No,
Seamus, it is a very big deal. I
am honored that you share so much of this, so much of yourself with me so
Harper felt his eyes starting to mist over again and blinked
the moisture away. He felt
so... safe with the Admiral, like he could tell him anything and he’d
understand. It was how he
felt with Dom, too, and he’d taken advantage of that until late last
night by talking until it was past time to bring him back to the Institute
so they both could get some sleep. He’d
left her house feeling much more secure about their relationship,
especially after he’d gotten a lot of cuddling and kissing.
He had gone to bed feeling wonderful.
He loved her, he really did, and he felt like the Admiral had
adopted him. He was starting
to get a new family, like on the Maru when he had started feeling like
Beka was the big sister he’d never had, like he had felt safe with Dylan
on the Andromeda even when they were getting shot at by someone.
Thinking that almost made him frown.
He always lost family. Maybe
this time it would be different, he told himself, like he told himself
every other time. Maybe this
time he could just stay here and be happy for the rest of his life.
“Room for one more?”
Harper looked up. Ro Simmons was standing there with a tray in hand.
She flashed them both one of her great, melt your brain smiles and
asked, “Or will I swoon from all the testosterone circulating around the
“No, no. Actually,
we were talking about how nice the sunrise was this morning,” Harper
said quickly as the Admiral stood and pulled out a chair for her.
Ro shot him a dubious look, but sat down anyway.
“I don’t think I’m going to see the sun for the rest of the
week, or next week, with all the damage to the Seaview,” she sighed,
then drank some of her coffee, then grinned over the table.
“Good catch on the flaw in the wiring, Shorty.
We’d probably still be spinning our wheels on that if you
hadn’t come through. Things
are taxing enough as it is.”
Harper thought about complaining about the ‘Shorty’
thing. Beka was allowed that,
but Ro wasn’t Beka by any stretch of the imagination. Giving her a grin of his own, he said, “Anything for you,
my Amazonian Princess.” The
miffed look that formed on Ro’s face was exactly what he’d hoped for. Now to swiftly change the subject, he told himself.
“Need some extra hands on the other stuff?
I’ve got two,” Harper said, holding them up and turning them as
if to she might have missed them.
Another dubious look shot his way, but it was softened with
a smile. “Uh huh.
And you got experience with submarines and nuclear systems when?
I suppose I could find you something
to do if you’re bored.”
“Mister Harper is attempting to be gallant,” the Admiral
answered before he could reply. “He has more than enough on his own plate to keep himself
busy for quite some time.”
are you working on? The
holograms?” she asked, then began to eat her breakfast.
He knew that now she was in ‘be polite to my best friend’s
boyfriend’ mode, but he didn’t mind. At least she wasn’t trying to get him to do some grunt work
by making his libido go crazy, as he’d half expected her to do.
That was a very good thing. Even
if he weren’t very happily romantically entangled, Ro was Crane’s gal.
He could only imagine the sort of beat down he’d get for even
looking at her the wrong way. He
had enough trouble with Crane as it was.
hydrogen reactor,” Nelson replied as the person that had taken his order
earlier returned with two plates. There
was lots of protein on Harper’s plate, while the Admiral was having much
lighter, more healthful breakfast. Harper
grinned. Nelson was trying to
fatten him up. Beka had done
the same thing when she had decided to keep him. At least Nelson hadn’t had to threaten to hose him down,
for which he was grateful.
“Interesting,” Ro commented, then smiled at him in a
polite ‘aren’t you so cute when you try to play with the big boys’
kind of way. “Like the ones
people are talking about for cars? Were
you planning a gasoline backup or electric?”
“Not a motor, a reactor.
It runs strictly on water. The
reactor powers itself after a minimal priming.
I was thinking about using hydrogen gas, but that’s kind of
dangerous to cart around, so I designed a system that separates the
hydrogen and oxygen molecules, expels the oxygen and uses the hydrogen
immediately to produce power so that there’s no real volume of gas in
the system at any given moment,” Harper explained as he poked at his own
breakfast. He didn’t have
an appetite for some reason, even though everything looked hot and tasty.
He took a bite anyway, hardly tasting it, but figuring he would eat
to appease the Admiral. Nelson was doing so much for him, including worrying about
him, that it was the least he could do.
“Really?” Ro said again, this time sounding truly
interested rather than like she was just being polite.
“Wouldn’t you need an awful lot of water to keep the system
“Nah, it’s really efficient and it captures all energy
released in system so you don’t lose any, not even what’s released
when you break apart the water molecule.
I need to write out all the math instead of just running numbers in
my head, but a liter of purified water ought to produce somewhere in the
neighborhood of a ten thousand megajoules,” Harper said, as he stirred
his scrambled eggs around his plate.
The Admiral made a choking sound and Harper looked up quickly.
Ro was just shaking off what looked to be shock so that she could
move pat the Admiral on the back and ask if he was all right.
Harper was up and around the table in an instant, adding his
efforts to Ro’s.
“Good heavens, man...” Nelson sputtered out, wiping his
mouth with a napkin. He
reigned in his shock and surprise to give Harper a look that made him
cringe because he didn’t know what it meant.
“Ten thousand megajoules?” Nelson demanded in a low but clear
voice. He sounded... Harper
didn’t know, but it was close enough to mad to make him really worry.
Harper gave him what he hoped was a ‘please don’t fire
me’ expression and said in a tiny voice, “Could be more.
I might be able to squeeze more out of it with a little fine
tuning?” He knew he’d
gone too small. Antiproton
reactors produced so much more energy, but he knew that technology was a
long way away off from this era.
“What is this reactor?
A contained nuclear bomb?” Ro asked, sounding shocked and a
“No! No, the
radiation output would be more dangerous than carrying large quantities of
hydrogen. It’s cold
fusion,” Harper tried to reassure her.
Suddenly, Nelson had him by the arm and had pushed him back into
his chair so that Ro and the Admiral were standing over him, looking at
him in a very disconcerting manner.
“Cold fusion? Cold fusion?”
Nelson asked in a hushed voice. Harper
was trying desperately to think his way out of this. Why was the Admiral so angry?
And why was he whispering all of a sudden?
“He can’t do it. It’s a myth,” Ro stated at a whisper as she crossed her
arms over her chest. Harper
turned back to the Admiral and scanned his face, trying to read his
expression. He had thought it
was anger, but maybe not. In
any case, Nelson seemed to be calming down.
“No, it’s just not proven science.
Two entirely different things,” Nelson was telling her.
Suddenly Harper understood. He’d
erred the wrong way because he had been thinking of the amounts of energy
required for long distance space travel, not to mention that he’d
thought that they had cold fusion, at least in basic forms, by this time.
It had been in a show he’d watched at Dom’s house.
Of course the show had been fiction, but the science had been sort
of right so he had assumed that at least the space program had the
technology in question. Boy,
did he ever suck at history. He
felt like shrinking into the floor when the Admiral and Ro turned their
attention back to him. “Mister
Harper, I misunderstood the nature of your reactor. I thought you intended to burn the hydrogen,” Nelson told
him, but still in a hushed tone. Harper
quickly scanned the room, still finding it empty, so he couldn’t
understand the whispers.
“I, for one, would like to see your notes on this
reactor,” Ro said, giving Harper a narrow look.
She thought he was trying to pull something, he was sure, but since
he didn’t know what he was being accused of, he couldn’t work up any
anger over it.
“Yes, I think I had better take a closer look at those
schematics myself,” Nelson said, tugging Harper back up to his feet
again and starting to turn them from the table. He paused, then stuffed Harper’s plate, cutlery and all,
into his hands before continuing to the door.
“I’m restricting access to your lab and we’re putting your
work under lock and key at the end of the day from now on and you are not
to discuss this with anyone before clearing it with me.
I might just let you cast and machine all your parts yourself after
“But...” Harper stammered out as he was dragged toward
his lab. Wait, his
lab? It was his now?
Harper couldn’t help but smile as he thought, “Cool.”
* * *
|Belonging, Chapter One|
|Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea Contents Page|
|Other Fan Fiction Contents Page|