* * *
Arland O’Donnell was sitting in his living room, trying to watch
football highlights, but was finding it nearly impossible with his wife,
who was in the kitchen, going through a litany of things he should be
doing with his Saturday afternoon. Hadn’t
he worked hard all his life, he thought sullenly.
Hadn’t he earned a Saturday to do with as he pleased?
Not according to his wife, who had come up with an endless list of
things for him to do from the moment he retired.
He knew if he turned up the volume on his television to drown out
her voice he’d never hear the end of it, so he tried to focus on the
Sportscasters, not his wife. He
was processing half of each stream of noise coming at him and was now
convinced that the Miami Dolphins needed to rake the front lawn if they
wanted a chance at the playoffs. He
sighed, reminding himself that he loved his wife.
The front doorbell rang and the shout of, “And answer that, you
lazy thing! Haven’t I got
enough to do!” immediately rose from the kitchen.
“Yes, my love,” O’Donnell called back, silently wondering
what she was doing in the
kitchen. Certainly not
bringing him the beer he’d asked very nicely for over an hour ago, he
thought moodily as he dragged himself out of his chair and to the front
door. For a moment, he
didn’t recognize the person standing there looking down, then his
visitor looked up and smiled and O’Donnell knew exactly who it was.
“Seamus! I’ve been
missing ya!” he said, clapping the boy on arm.
Seamus’ hair was combed and a lot of the bruising and cuts on his
face had healed in the nearly week that he had been absent.
He was also nicely dressed rather than wearing the baggy, wrinkled
clothes that O’Donnell was used to seeing him in.
Not that he’d imagined he’d see Seamus again now that he had a
big, important job with famous people doing glamorous things.
“Hey, Mister O’Donnell. Didn’t
want you to think I dropped off the face of the Earth or anything,”
Seamus said with that pleasant, dimple filled smile of his.
O’Donnell scolded himself for his previous thinking.
He should have known Seamus wouldn’t be like that.
All his life, O’Donnell had felt looked down on because he worked
for the City on the roads. A laborer he was, certainly, but he had worked hard and had
given his family a good life and a fine house in a good area.
Granted, that house had been all but falling down when he’d
bought it, but it was beautiful now and he’d had unseemly offers from
people wanting to buy it from him in recent days.
Still, his children never talked about what he did for a living,
embarrassed because he had worked with a shovel and jackhammer rather then
at a desk. Even now, if
asked, his children would tell people that he had worked for the City and
quickly change the subject. It
was his sweat and toil that had paid for their colleges which gotten them
their fine jobs and lives, yet it seemed to count for nothing with them.
He rarely saw them unless they were looking for an emergency
babysitter. They seemed
hesitant to bring the grandchildren around most times, is if his lowness
would rub off on them.
Seamus wasn’t like that though.
He had worked hard all his life too and knew the value of a job
well done, no matter what that job was.
Seamus had listened with interest to O’Donnell’s stories, where
his own son had rolled his eyes and sought escape as quickly as possible
when told the very same tales. He laughed at O’Donnell’s jokes and didn’t scold him if
they were a bit off color, as his daughters did.
Spending time with Seamus quickly had become a bright spot in the
tedium of O’Donnell’s retirement. So, when Dominica had told him that
Seamus had been hired by the Nelson Institute, that he was a genius, an
inventor that the world renowned Admiral Harriman Nelson couldn’t wait
to have in his employ, O’Donnell had almost been heartbroken.
It hadn’t been out of meanness, it really hadn’t.
O’Donnell had been happy for Seamus.
However, he had thought that it meant Seamus would shun him now,
avoid him like his computer programmer son did.
He should have known better. He
really should have.
“No, no, lad. Dominica told us what happened,” O’Donnell assured him
with a smile of his own. “So
Nelson came to his senses and hired ya, did he?
Should have done that straight off, soon as Dominica told him about
ya. Dominica tells us ya be a
grand inventor now, a regular scientist.
Told the wife ya wasn’t just some scruffy boy I was corrupting,
sure’n I did.”
Seamus’ smile widened as he said, “Oh, I was corrupted years
ago. Anyway, I wanted to
bring you this to kind of pay you back for all the beer you gave me,”
Seamus said, handing a bag toward him.
“Aw, that was just being neighborly, lad...” O’Donnell
started as he drew a bottle out of the bag and stopped dead at what he
held. “Midleton,” he
breathed, cradling the bottle of whiskey like a baby in his hands.
“I’ve not seen this in years!
I didn’t even know ya could buy it here in America except by the
“If you know where to look and the Admiral knew where,” Seamus
said, still grinning. “I
told him I wanted to buy you a present, ‘cause you were the first person
here in Santa Barbara besides Dom to treat me like I was worth anything.
I wouldn’t have met the Admiral like I did and been able to
impress him into hiring me if it wasn’t for you, Mister O’Donnell.
I’ll never forget that.”
O’Donnell looked back to Seamus from the bottle and got misty
eyed at the boy’s sincere words of gratitude.
“Oh, Seamus, we Irish lads have to look out for each other.
We’re all family, after all,” O’Donnell told him, then gave
him a firm, manly hug, which Seamus returned without hesitation.
“And what shiftless layabout are you wasting time with now, you
old fool?” came his wife’s voice from the kitchen, making O’Donnell
wince as he released Seamus.
“It’s just me, Misses O’Donnell,” Seamus called back to
her, not seeming to mind the he’d just been called names from another
room. Seamus looked back at
him and smiled. “Dom and I
wanted to know if you had dinner plans.
We thought if you didn’t, we’d all go to Dargan’s.
That’s where I got the Midleton, so we can have a toast to the
future with dinner. My
treat,” he told O’Donnell, his bright blue eyes sparkling with warmth.
“Ya talked them into partin’ with a bottle?
Ya sly thing, I’ve never been able ta do that, and I’ve known
Ted Dargan for years!” O’Donnell said clapping him warmly on the
shoulder again. Actually, he
had talked Ted out of a bottle once, but it would have been so expensive
that the wife would have killed him if he’d gone through with it.
“And of course we’ll come out and celebrate yer success!
Give us a few minutes to get dressed and we’ll come ring
“Okay, Mister O’Donnell. We’ll
see you then,” Seamus said with another soft smile and turned back to
Dominica’s house. O’Donnell
grinned after him, thinking what a fine, sweet, loving young man Seamus
“Arland, for heaven’s sake, are you going to do anything at all
today but lie around?” his wife bleated, still not having moved from her
“Put on a good dress and brush yer hair, woman!” O’Donnell
commanded as he closed the front door and looked warmly down at the bottle
of whiskey he held. “We are
goin’ out to dinner!”
“Oh and I should just throw away all my
hard work because of one of your silly whims.
What has gotten into you, Arland O’Donnell!”
“Nothing yet, but some fine Irish whiskey and some shepherds pie
soon enough,” O’Donnell chuckled to himself, looking forward to the
company as well as the fare as he went to get himself dressed for dinner.
His young friend Seamus would find himself invited for Tuesday
night darts and beer at that Knight’s hall before the evening ended.
O’Donnell would introduce him to the lads then.
It would be a grand time. If
Dominica was agreeable to it, maybe it would be a regular thing.
After all, having Seamus hang about with a bunch of Catholic men on
a regular basis might steer him into becoming a church going man himself. Surely Dominica couldn’t help but like that!
She and Seamus made a fine couple, O’Donnell decided.
Yes, they were made for each other and soon enough Seamus would be
back, living next door to him again, Dominica an honorary Irish lass when
she took his name for hers. O’Donnell
looked forward to spending some Saturdays standing around the drive,
drinking beer and talking over a car engine or something of that ilk.
He would be sure to tell Seamus he should call him Uncle Arland
tonight. They were all going
to be one big, happy family soon enough, after all.
Yes, that Seamus had not vanished pleased O’Donnell very much
Tyr was bored. He did not like being bored.
Usually, if he were bored, he would do something about it sooner
rather than later. This time,
he’d been bored for hours and there was still no relief in sight. If this did not change soon, there would be a bloody mess for
the Andromeda’s service bots to clean and Dylan would most likely be
very unhappy. Tyr found that
he cared very little about either of those things.
At least he wouldn’t be bored any longer.
Tyr stood glaring, muscular arms crossed over his equally impress
chest, at the scrawny Perseids that were the cause of his boredom.
They glanced over at him nervously every so often, but apparently
he wasn’t making them nervous enough because they weren’t leaving.
They had tried to ask him questions earlier, but he had responded
by cracking the bones in his neck and beginning the glare that had lasted
ever since. They hadn’t
asked him anything after that. They
did, however, ask the ship a lot of questions that were variations on the
same topic: Harper’s space/time folding device and other things he had
made since joining the crew of the Andromeda.
The endless repetition had Tyr ready to bellow and start ripping
“When did you say Engineer Harper is returning?” the senior of
the two aliens asked. For supposedly highly intelligent beings, these two Perseids
seemed relentlessly dim.
“I didn’t,” came the ship’s evasive answer, as expected.
Tyr felt like beating his head against the wall.
Better yet, he mused, he should beat the Perseids’ heads against
the wall. That would be far
more satisfying. Again, he
reminded himself that Dylan would probably not see the perfect
reasonableness of the action, so Tyr refrained. For
The Perseids had been moving from machine shop to machine shop,
examining everything that Harper had built since he had come to live on
the Andromeda. It was a
surprisingly large amount of things and Tyr had wondered briefly if Harper
never slept. It was a
possibility. Harper often did
things that were unhealthy. He
didn’t eat right and would often skip meals, then eat too much.
He drank too much. Even
when he wasn’t drinking alcoholic beverages, he was drinking that
disgusting Sparky Cola slime. There
was a warning on each can, one that was dire enough to make anything with
enough brain power to read it fling the substance as far away from
themselves as possible. Harper
drank it by the vat. That
alone should have killed the Magog larvae that had once been in the boy,
but apparently the disgusting creatures had absorbed some of Harper’s
immunity to some of the cola’s rather long list of dire side effects.
Still, Tyr found he missed the small, talkative boy.
Certainly, he missed him at the moment, because if Harper had been
on the Andromeda, Tyr would have gone to wherever he was, grabbed him by
the scruff of the neck and dragged him to the Perseids.
Harper’s ability to stand long exposure to the beings made Tyr
think that perhaps he was tougher than people gave him credit for being.
Maybe Harper was still alive somewhere, as Dylan and Valentine
seemed to believe. Tyr
wasn’t going to believe it until he saw the boy with his own eyes, but
it would be pleasant if it were true.
It was entertaining intimidating Harper, who squeaked quite
satisfyingly when he was startled.
The Perseids were huddled over yet another of the seemingly endless
supply of gadgets that they were finding squirreled away in Harper’s
former work areas. They were
chattering at each other in their species’ tongue, sounding very much
like demented chipmunks in their excitement.
Tyr felt like rolling his eyes.
Yet another thing they would question the ship about.
“What is this?” the senior Perseid asked as if on cue.
“You’ll have to ask Mister Harper upon his return,” came the
ship’s expected reply.
“Surely you know something,” the scientist complained
Harper had to have kept notes or logs or...”
“Mister Harper has not yet been convinced of the benefits of
documentation,” the Andromeda informed them levelly.
Tyr snarled to himself. If
Harper returned to the Andromeda, Tyr would make it his mission to impress
upon him very forcefully the importance of keeping extremely thorough
notes on everything he made from that moment on.
The Perseids went back to tittering at each other.
Tyr was convinced that his hearing would be permanently damaged if
he were forced listen to them for very much longer.
Where was Barris? Tyr
would welcome the alien’s appearance at this point because then he
wouldn’t be bored any longer and he would finally get to rip an annoying
person’s head off.
“Tyr, I need to speak to you privately,” the Andromeda said
rather unexpectedly. The
Perseids didn’t stop their chattering and didn’t look up, so Tyr could
only imagine that she had used a pitch audible only to him.
Glancing at the scientists, Tyr moved quietly out into the
corridor. The door to the
machine shop closed behind him. “Not
that I care about those witless annoyances’ safety, but Captain Hunt did
want me to guard them,” Tyr said, his almost overwhelming boredom
ringing in his words.
“I just lost contact with the Maru,” Andromeda told him.
Tyr raised an eyebrow. “This
was unexpected?” he asked, not certain about the details of what lay
between the Andromeda and the Maru and how the intervening space might
interfere with communication between the vessels.
“I’ve been in almost constant contact with my Avatar since they
left. The Maru were just
about to enter orbit around the Lechak Bon home world and the transmission
died suddenly,” the Andromeda told him.
Tyr frowned. “Barris’ ship?”
“It hasn’t moved.”
Tyr considered this new development.
“If the Lechak Bon home world has been cut off as this fiction
you’ve presented to everyone states, then that could very well mean
communications as well as transportation,” Tyr said.
“What if they’re in some sort of trouble?” the Andromeda
“Since we can’t follow them, there would be very little we
could do about it,” Tyr told her, though the ship likely already knew
this. “What does Dylan
think about it?” Tyr questioned her, wondering why the ship was talking
to him about this rather than her Captain.
“He’s asleep,” the Andromeda told him.
“He hasn’t slept in days and it was beginning to affect his
judgement. You are acting
Much as Tyr liked the sound of that, it was a temporary thing and
the circumstances were not ideal. “Then
we wait. There is nothing else we can do,” Tyr said, deciding to be
practical about the matter. “If
communications have not been reestablished by the time Dylan wakes, inform
him. Perhaps he had some sort
of plan he chose not to inform us of if something of this nature
“All of this waiting is starting to really annoy me,” the
Andromeda informed him.
“I’ll trade waiting for Perseid guard duty,” Tyr grumbled,
returning to his post. The
alien scientists didn’t seem to have noticed his absence, for they were
still chattering on about what looked to be the same device.
Tyr frowned thinking that though its fate was uncertain at the
moment, he wished he were aboard the Maru.
At least there were no Perseids there.
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