Belonging

by

Michelle Pichette

 

Chapter 34

 

 

* * *

     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 glass full!”

     “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 Dominica’s bell.”

     “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 was.

     “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 kitchen lair.

     “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 indeed.

* * *

     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 out limbs.

     “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 now.

     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 petulantly.  “Engineer 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 asked.

     “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 Captain.”

     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 occurred.”

     “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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