Belonging

by

Michelle Pichette

 

Chapter 30

 

 

* * *

     Lee was looking over some repair logs when Ro came aboard the Seaview.  Though he hadn’t seen her, he had thought she was already in and hard at the major rewiring project that had suddenly become necessary.  Frowning a little, he glanced at his watch.  It was almost nine, which was late for Ro to be getting in.  “Good morning,” he greeted her when she appeared to be about to walk off the Command Deck without a word.  Perhaps she was tired.  He knew that she had been stressed about repairs and hadn’t been sleeping well.

     “Oh,” she replied, just seeming to realize he was there.  She wasn’t tired, she was distracted, something Ro very rarely was.  Lee wondered what had gotten Ro to thinking so hard.  “Good morning, Lee.  Sorry.  I... I’ve had an interesting morning.”

     Lee smiled.  “Really?  Doing what?”

     “Talking to Seamus Harper as it turns out.”  That killed Lee’s smile.

     “Really?” he asked, aware his tone was cold.  He knew he ought go into the Institute to apologize for his ill timed words yesterday now that he knew that Harper was awake and in his lab, but he’d actually been told in no uncertain terms not to.  Lee had tried to apologize to Dom this morning, but while she had curtly said that she accepted his apology, she had also told him to leave Harper and her relationship with him alone from here on out, then thrown him out of her office yet again.  It was strange having Dom mad at him.  She was never mad at anyone!

     He knew the Admiral would want him to apologize to Harper anyway, but Lee wasn’t feeling very apologetic at the moment.  If Harper hadn’t kept shrugging off his efforts last night, he wouldn’t have still been there trying when Dom had walked in on them.  Lee got mad at himself for thinking that.  It wasn’t fair to Harper, who had been pretty much telling him that he didn’t care about how Lee had been treating him before everything had spun out of control.  It was Dom being hurt that had set Harper off.  Of course, Lee would have been protective over Ro, so he could hardly criticize Harper for that.  However, why wouldn’t Harper care about being treated poorly himself?  Was he mentally unstable?  No, the Admiral would have picked up on something like that.  Lee was confused and frustrated about the whole thing.  What was worse was that he couldn’t shake the feeling that there was something wrong about Harper, that he was lying about something important or dangerous or that he was just plain running a con.

     Ro frowned at him.  “I know you don’t like him, Lee, but lay off from now on, okay?”  Lee sighed and rolled his eyes, but before he could say a word, Ro held up a hand.  “Lee, he doesn’t want trouble with you.  Just let him alone.”

     Lee was certain his displeasure was showing.  Now Ro was defending Harper?  If that wasn’t strange, nothing was and there was already enough strangeness surrounding Harper.  “Look, I know I owe him an apology, but I still think he’s a little con artist and...”

     “He’s not,” Ro contradicted him.  “I’ll give you annoying or brash, but he’s not trying to pull anything.”

     “Yeah.  Sure.  Harper is the most incredible engineer of all time,” Lee said sarcastically.

     Ro pursed her lips for a moment, then said, “Lee, he’s a genius, a real genius.  We spent the last hour talking about the project he’s working on and...” she paused and shook her head, looking utterly amazed, “... and I could barely keep up.  I hate to say this, but I know he was dumbing a lot of it down after the first few minutes because he could tell that I was getting lost.  Even the Admiral was asking more questions than I’m used to hearing from him.  Now I know why Dom adores him.  She thinks intelligence is sexy, so he probably gives her the same shivers you give most women that look at you.”

     Lee was about to argue that he didn’t go around trying to give women shivers, but decided that wasn’t really the point.  “He couldn’t just be faking this?  Someone couldn’t have coached him about whatever it was that he was talking about?”

     “No possible way.  Like I said, I could barely keep up, but I’d know if he were just trying to get by on jargon or acting off a script.  So would the Admiral.  He understood what he was talking about.  I’m sure of it.  He’s brilliant, Lee.  I think his IQ is up there with the Admiral’s,” Ro told him.  If her face weren’t dead serious, he would have thought she was kidding.

     Lee ran a hand back up through his hair, unable to accept what Ro was telling him.  “Harper?  The little guy with the bad hair?  That Harper?  He’s that intelligent?”

     “I’m just glad the Admiral doesn’t want him anywhere near the Seaview or I’d worry about my job,” Ro said to push her point home.

     That the Admiral didn’t want Harper near the Seaview came as good news, but it made Lee curious.  “Why not?”

     “Why not what?”

     “Why doesn’t the Admiral want Harper near the Seaview if he’s so brilliant?”

     “From what I picked up on this morning, it has something to do with his health.  The thing Harper was showing us... I can’t go into what it is on the Admiral’s orders... the Admiral was thinking about testing it on the Seaview, but he said that Harper would have to settle for radio reports as to how it went.  For some reason, it seemed like Doctor Jamieson would never okay Harper for a cruise and the Admiral doesn’t want him near the Seaview’s reactor or radiation in general,” Ro said.

     Lee frowned.  That made no sense.  If there were any danger from radiation poisoning, they would all be at risk or horribly ill.  Lee knew Harper was sick or something, but the Admiral had said that it was nothing to worry about.  “What does that mean?” he asked, unable to work out what was going on with Harper.

     Ro shrugged.  “Could mean a lot of things.  Who knows?  It’s none of my business.  Look, I’ve got to go.  Just stop snarling at him.  He’s not a threat to the Institute.  In fact, I’d be more worried about outside forces trying to steal him away if I were you.  I wouldn’t want his mind in enemy hands.”  With that, Ro gave him a kiss on the cheek and disappeared off into the Seaview.  Lee felt like trailing her, but decided to let the whole thing go.  Harper was barred from the Seaview.  That officially made him not Lee’s worry.  He just wished he could shake off the feeling that little, scrawny Harper was somehow a danger to all of them.

* * *

     Nelson was just leaving Harper’s newly appointed lab shaking his head, but doing it with a smile.  Cold fusion!  Harper was going to give him a working cold fusion reactor!  Glancing behind himself, through the window, he could see that Harper was back to working on his schematic, his back to the door.  Nelson would have to see about having some opaque glass installed, thinking that this most likely would not be the last time that Harper would be working on something that Nelson would want to keep totally under wraps.  Nelson watched the boy carefully adding detail to his drawing.  He had asked about turning the drafting table, but Harper had said that where he had it was where the best light in the room was.  Nelson didn’t want any harm to come to Harper, especially now, so if the board’s current position was the least taxing on the boy’s eyes, that was where it would stay. Fortunately, everything important was too small for anyone to see from this distance.

     Nelson was just turning from the door, still smiling, only to find himself face to face with Barris.  “I see your new slave is pleasing to you,” Barris said, giving Nelson one of his toothy grins.

     Nelson frowned.  It was bad enough that Barris was back, but that he was commenting on Harper and Harper’s previous station in life as if nothing had changed was disturbing in an entirely new way.  “What do you want, Barris?”  Nelson demanded, stepping so that he stood directly between Harper and Barris.

     “Why, to repair your vessel and serve you in any manner you choose,” Barris told him eagerly.

     “Then you are wasting both of our time,” Nelson said, crossing his arms over his chest.  He would not walk away from Barris this time and leave Harper in possible peril.

     “We would not be wasting time if you allowed us to serve you,” Barris said doggedly.

     “I have no use for what you are offering.  Go away,” Nelson told him.  He could only imagine that someone was going to come along and see Barris at any moment.

     “You will,” Barris said, his smile suddenly changed.  There was something dangerous in it now, something that Nelson had not seen on the alien before.  “You find yourself in danger from outside forces continually.  Forces assail you constantly that damage your property and the people that work for you.  Wouldn’t it be nice if, for once, there were someone under your command that could dispose of such threats before such dire circumstances occurred?”

     Nelson’s eyes narrowed.  “Are you threatening me?”

     “No, of course not, Admiral,” Barris assured him, though his face was anything but reassuring.  “Merely stating an eventuality that suits neither of us.”

     “Leave now, Barris, and don’t come back,” Nelson ordered the alien, anger darkening his features.  He had to remember to go to munitions and get something to shoot Barris with the next time he appeared this way.

     “For now,” Barris said, then looked past Nelson to where Harper was.  “One should set a tone with new slaves...”

     “He is a valued employee, not a slave,” Nelson said, not liking Barris’ interest in Harper one bit.

     “Pet then,” Barris conceded, though Nelson didn’t like that description much better than slave.  “You have it under lock and key, which is a good start.  You should beat it soundly now, make certain that it understands that it is your property and that it lives and dies by your will alone.  I only wish to save you bother later.  It has a history of disobedience.”  With that, Barris vanished in a cloud of foul smelling black smoke.

     Nelson forced down his anger over Barris’ threat to the Institute and turned to look back at Harper.  He hadn’t forgotten what Jamie had said about his holding a position of power over Harper and how the boy might feel about that.  It had rankled on him then, but now he actually worried about it.  He knew, after their lunchtime conversation yesterday that Harper more than respected him, that the young engineer felt humbled and awed in his presence, that Harper would probably walk through fire for him.  Though that had been a huge ego boost, Nelson didn’t want that sort of thing to go too far.  Did Harper consider himself a slave or pet, albeit a well treated one?

     Sliding his security badge through the door lock, Nelson went back into the lab.  Harper turned and smiled warmly at him, saying, “Forget something, Boss?  I know I said I’m quick, but I’m afraid that it’s gonna take more than three minutes to finish up these schematics.”

     Nelson walked over to where Harper sat and gently laid a hand on the boy’s shoulder.  “Take as long as you need.  You shouldn’t feel rushed.  I needed to ask you something, though.  You never said, exactly, but I need to know for my own piece of mind...”  Nelson paused, not knowing how to ask what he wanted to ask without it being insulting.  

     “Ask me anything, Boss.  My life is an open book.  It isn’t great reading at the start, but lately it’s getting whole lots better,” Harper said with an easy grin.

     “Seamus, when you were first lived on Earth, you were a slave,” Nelson stated rather than asked, thinking he’d like that in particular to be confirmed or denied.

     “So the Drago-Jerkoffs wanted to believe,” Harper replied, not seeming affected by Nelson having said it aloud.  “I allowed them their delusions, but made sure they paid for them.”  A malicious glint formed in Harper’s eyes.  Nelson remembered him saying that he had made things for the resistance fighters to use on the Nietzscheans.  Harper had obviously not been broken by his previous circumstances and had fought back how he could.  Good for him, Nelson thought with a grin of his own.

     “Probably what I would have done as well,” Nelson told him, which made Harper’s smile brighten.  Harper liked comparisons being drawn between them, Nelson knew, and it didn’t bother him to make them occasionally.  “I just wanted to make certain that you know what your position at the Institute is, and what it isn’t.”

     Harper’s brow knit for a second, then his face relaxed and he laughed.  “Boss, I don’t think you’re gonna throw me into chains and start beating the crap out of me for being too slow with the free hand drawing.  At least not any more.  We won’t go into the stuff I was thinking in your office yesterday morning when I first told I was from the future, ‘cause it’s way too embarrassing.  And you should really forget about the Neitzs and about how things were in my past.  There’s nothing to think about anyway.  It’s not like I’m gonna have those sorts of problems anymore, right?” he asked, obviously pleased that was the case.

     “Of course not, Seamus,” Nelson agreed, then ruffled the boy’s already disorderly hair, quite pleased himself that Harper was happy with his new life.

     “Hey!” Harper protested with a grimace.  “Twenty five here, not five!”  He made a disgusted sound and went back to work.

     Nelson chuckled, patted Harper gently on the shoulder, then started toward the door.  Let Barris believe what he wanted.  Harper was his protégée, not his pet, and Harper understood that.  That was the important thing.

     Still, Nelson thought with a frown, what mayhem was Barris going to cause to convince him that he needed ‘protection?’  Nelson sighed, wondering if he needed to arm people or not.  Probably not, he decided, since Barris didn’t seem to want anyone to know about his presence besides Nelson himself.  That didn’t make his most recent visit any less disturbing.  The threat and his advice concerning Harper were both far darker than anything that Barris had presented so far and Nelson began to wonder how evil Barris truly was. 

* * *

 

 

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