* * *
It was late in the afternoon when Lee had been heading to the
Admiral’s office with good news. The rewiring that had been forced by the faulty stock they
had previously received was done, and three days early, thanks to a little
overtime that some of the men had put in over the weekend and a
spectacular effort by Chip. It
was looking like they might actually get back out to sea after all, Lee
thought with a grin. He was
never so happy as when he was out at sea, on the Seaview especially.
He was more than halfway to the Admiral’s office when he
passed Harper in the hallway. Harper
was reading a book intently and didn’t even notice him, but Lee turned
and watched after him in shock, knowing what Harper was reading.
It was the Admiral’s copy of Moby Dick.
Nelson read that book constantly, almost absently, in good times
and in bad. He was almost
never without it. Lee frowned
and turned after Harper, tapping the little man on the shoulder as he
easily caught up with him.
Harper looked up from the book and annoyance flashed across
his features. “What, Crane?
You got a rule about reading in the halls?” he snapped, which
surprised Lee for a moment. He
hadn’t seen Harper since the incident last week that had resulted in Dom
crying and Harper shoving him. Harper
had told him there would be no more ‘chirpy hellos.’
Apparently he had been sincere.
“That is the Admiral’s personal copy of Moby Dick,”
Lee informed him stiffly, putting a hand out for the book.
Maybe Harper had brought something to Nelson’s office and walked
off with the book without Katy noticing.
The Admiral would be furious when he noticed it missing, so Lee
would see to it that there was nothing to notice.
Harper rolled his eyes with a long suffering sigh.
“Good eye. Anything
else obvious you want confirmed, you come straight to me,” he said, his
voice dripping sarcasm. He
shook his head, then turned back to the book and started to walk away.
Lee snatched the book away from him before Harper had half turned.
“Hey!” he protested as Lee snapped the book shut and tucked it
under his arm, ignoring Harper’s outraged expression and tone.
“You ask permission before you touch other people’s
belongings,” Lee berated him with a stern look then turned, walking
briskly to the Admiral’s office. Katy
let him in as usual, but Lee was surprised to see that the Admiral was in
his office, pouring over some schematics.
Lee frowned, thinking that Nelson hadn’t noticed Harper take the
book because his attention had been elsewhere.
“Oh, Lee. Good.
I was just about to...” Nelson started as he looked up, then he
squinted in Lee’s direction. “Is
that my Moby Dick?” he asked, sounding a little confused.
“Um, yes. Harper
must have picked it up without thinking when he was last in here, so
I...” Lee started as he took the book out from under his arm, but Nelson
frowned deeply and held up a hand for him to stop.
Pushing his intercom, Nelson said, “Katy, could I see you
for a moment?”
Lee was confused as Katy came into the office saying,
“Would you please take the book Captain Crane is holding
and bring it to Mister Harper?” Nelson said, sounding suddenly weary.
Katy smiled. “Of course. Would
you like coffee, sir?”
“Yes, Katy. Thank you,” Nelson replied as Katy took the book and left
the office. When she was
gone, Nelson lifted one hand to his eyes to rub them, saying, “I can
only assume that you accosted Harper in the hall and took the book from
him, since he just left here with it.”
“Well, yes, but I thought...” Lee started feeling a
little foolish over what had just happened.
“Lee, Harper is accustomed to larger individuals taking
things from him randomly, then hurting him if he objected,” Nelson
sighed out. “I told him
that in polite society that didn’t happen.
Tell me that, at least, the physical harming didn’t occur.”
Lee winced, embarrassed.
“No, of course not,” Lee assured him.
“I thought he’d taken the book and...”
Nelson looked up at him, his mouth flat, his expression of
disapproval stopping Lee cold. “Lee, Seamus is an employee of the Institute, not some
intruder. I thought that we
had come to an accord concerning that at least.
Seamus has been here almost a week and he spent five days at Doctor
Babin’s house before that. In
all that time, ample time to get up to mischief I’m sure you will agree,
what has Seamus done that could justify these ‘bad feelings’ that you
seem to still harbor against him?”
“Nothing,” Lee admitted, wishing against logic that the
opposite was true so that he could explain how he continued to react to
the little engineer.
“Nothing,” Nelson repeated, confirming that assessment.
“In fact, that I’m aware of, Seamus hasn’t done anything to
anyone, much as others have almost actively goaded him to do so.
The one exception to that you are very knowledgeable of.
I trust that you have apologized to him for that...
misunderstanding between you.”
“I apologized to Dom the next morning and she told me to
not go anywhere near Harper because she was afraid he’d take a swing at
me and get into real trouble,” Lee said, still feeling oddly disquieted
over Dom being angry with him. He
shrugged off the feeling and frowned. “I told Harper at the time that I hadn’t intended to
upset him or Dom, but I don’t think he was listening to anything I said.
In fact, he told me that the next time I was annoyed with him that
I should beat him senseless. I think he was trying to protect Dom from being upset again,
but how would him being hurt do that?
Why would he say something like that? I
think there’s something seriously wrong with him.”
Nelson shook his head, still frowning.
“Lee, imagine living a life where you have to fight for
everything, including basic necessities like food and warmth.
Imagine having hard, demeaning work rewarded with a beating more
often than not, but that you dare not complain because that will only
invite worse punishment. Imagine
seeing family and friends being hurt and dying around you, but you are too
small and helpless to stop any of it. That has been Seamus’ life.
He probably would rather endure physical harm than ever see anyone
he cares about hurt ever again, even accidentally, even with words rather
than blows,” he said, then looked down briefly, plainly gathering his
Lee considered what the Admiral had just described.
Nelson was not the sort of person to be taken in by some sob story
or to exaggerate, so there had to be at least some measure of truth in
what he had said. However, what Nelson had just described sounded like the sort
of things that happened under an abusive regime, not here in America, not
even to homeless people. It
really didn’t matter because Lee just couldn’t assign either of those
pasts to Harper, who was annoyingly perky not angst ridden.
Lee simply didn’t know what to believe and he didn’t trust
Harper at all. “I can try
apologizing again, but after what happened last time, I don’t know that
it would improve anything,” Lee said.
“Last time there were ulterior motives involved, as, I
suspect, there would be the case this time as well,” Nelson said,
sounding weary. “If you
only intend to apologize to Seamus in order to appease me, I’d rather
you didn’t bother, which would likely be his feelings on the matter as
well. Lee, I can’t force
you to like Seamus, but you will be civil to him from now on.
If you don’t feel you can do that, then you’d better avoid him
as much as possible and put forth your best effort if you two do come face
to face. And don’t take
anything else away from him, no matter how you suspect he might have come
into possession of the item in question.
If you have concerns, bring them to me.
There will be no more confrontations between the two of you.”
Lee almost cringed at the final statement and the tone of
it. He wanted to be angry
with Harper, to complain of injustice, but he had been the instigator of
all of the trouble between them and he knew it. Nodding his agreement, Lee sighed, “I honestly don’t know
why I’m reacting to Harper the way I am, like he’s up to no good even
when he’s doing something as innocent as walking up a hallway and
reading. I’ll be glad when
the Seaview is repaired. Getting
out to sea again might clear my head.
We’ve finished all the rewiring, by the way, so we’re back to
“That went faster than expected,” Nelson said, sounding
a little surprised. At least
the look of disapproval was gone, for which Lee was grateful.
“I don’t know how he did it, but Chip got some of the
really tough spots done in record time,” Lee said.
He was grateful to his friend, who had said that he had something
new he was trying out that ought to make things go faster.
Chip had tackled all their tight spots and flew through them as if
he could shrink down and carry the wire through the conduits rather than
having to take a heavier wire and slowly work the new wire through.
His doing that freed other people to work at other areas.
Lee thought Chip must have put in some awfully late nights and
skipped meals to get everything he had fixed finished as quickly as he
had. Even then, Lee wasn’t
sure how Chip could have managed it, but he couldn’t argue with results.
“If we push a bit the next few days and offer a little
overtime this weekend, we might just get back on schedule,” the Admiral
said, sounding very pleased about that prospect.
“Those were Ro’s thoughts as well.
So I should authorize it?” Lee asked.
“Yes, yes, by all means.
I’d like to get our grey lady back in the water as soon as
possible,” Nelson agreed, nodding and reaching for the cigarettes on his
Lee was about to say something, but decided that this would
not be a good time to give the Admiral grief about his smoking.
“I’ll go get the ball rolling,” he said instead, then let
himself out. Katy was just returning with the Admiral’s coffee and gave
him a smile as he held the door opened for her, but Lee wasn’t feeling
in a particularly smiley mood and though he would’ve liked to blame
Harper, he couldn’t. What
he had said in Nelson’s office was true.
Harper hadn’t done anything in the slightest bit suspect since
his appearance at the Institute. Why
couldn’t he trust the kid?
Harper stood there, seething, watching Crane walk away with
the book the Admiral had loaned to him, the one Nelson talked about all
the time and wanted him to read so they could talk about it together.
Where did Crane get off doing that, just taking the book like he
didn’t have the right to read it? Reigning
in his temper, Harper drew a deep breath and blew it out.
Much as Crane seemed to want to pick a fight with him, he
wouldn’t give him the satisfaction.
Dom had a lot of books. She
probably had a copy of Moby Dick, Harper told himself as he turned toward
his lab. He would ask to
borrow it and then he’d be able to talk with the Boss about it.
It was all good. It
wasn’t worth his time being angry about stupid, petty things that
happened in hallways.
It had been a depressing day anyway.
He’d tried talking to one of the Engineers, a guy named Lawton,
about where he could find some metal snips for a little something he was
trying to build for the Admiral before the Seaview shipped out again.
Lawton had sneered at him and sniffed that he should go talk to the
other mechanics, like being a
mechanic was something terrible. Harper
had gone to the machine shop, sighing unhappily about his well equipped
tool belt that was doing absolutely no good for anyone several thousand
years in the future. He talked to the foreman in the machine shop, a decent guy
named Eddie Feingold, about what Lawton had said and how to go about
picking up a few more tools. Eddie
told him that Lawton was a jerk and that most of the Engineers had major
attitude problems, so Harper better be prepared to prove himself to the
other machinists and mechanics or they’d give him grief for being one of
them. Harper had spent
the rest of the morning feeling dismal about being caught between those
two worlds and not seeming to belong to either.
Now he was Crane’s temper tantrum target again.
As Harper dragged back toward the lab, thinking that he would be
happy for the day to end so he could spend time with someone who actually
liked him, he heard Katy calling, “Oh, Seamus!”
He half cringed, thinking Nelson had Crane’s version of what had
gone on in the hall, complete with wise ass comments, and he’d have to
sit there and make nice for the rest of the day.
Heaving another heavy sigh out, he turned and Katy walked quickly
up to him and smiled, handing him Nelson’s book and saying, “The
Admiral wanted me to give this to you.”
Harper took the book with a sigh of relief.
“Thanks, Katy,” he said, grateful that giving him the book
seemed to be all she had been instructed to do.
“The Admiral’s favorite copy of his favorite book.
He’s making you read it, hmm?” Katy asked with a grin.
“He’s not twisting my arm,” Harper told her with a
little smile, turning the book in his hands so it was right way up.
“Sounds sort of neat, actually, the way he was talking about it
and I like a good adventure story.”
“You’ve probably had lots of adventures yourself,”
Katy said, giving him that ‘I am so interested if you are’ look.
Who would guess that he would be a babe magnet here in the past?
Not that he needed more intimate female companionship than he
already had. He had
fantasized about having two women, but the reality of having one that
snuggled with him beat that fantasy hands down and he didn’t want to
ruin what he had.
Before he could attempt to deflect Katy’s attention in a
way that wouldn’t be damaging to their friendship, Harper got whacked
hard in the shoulder from behind. To
keep from crashing into Katy, he had to twist to the side, then his feet
got tangled in something as he tried to find his footing and he went down,
landing hard on his elbow, which sent sparks of pain up and down his arm.
Wincing his eyes shut and biting back a yelp of pain, Harper heard
Portman’s voice saying with a cruel snicker, “Why don’t you watch
where you’re going, Harper?”
Harper stayed where he was, wincing, squeezing his elbow,
biting down some very colorful phrases he had learned over the years, all
too aware that Katy was right there, saying something in an indignant tone
to Portman. The pain mostly
subsided after a few seconds and Harper drew a deep breath and opened his
eyes. His arm stung, but he
knew it wasn’t broken. Portman’s
nose was going to be, though, Harper thought heatedly as he surged back to
his feet. Someone grabbed him
from behind and held him back as he started after his nemesis, and Chip
Morton’s voice stated calmly, “He’s not worth it, trust me.”
Harper wanted to argue to the contrary, that kicking Portman’s
ass would totally be worth any trouble he got into over it, but he nodded
silently and Chip released him.
“Seamus are you all right?” Katy asked worriedly.
Harper nodded, feeling annoyed and foolish, but certainly not
gravely injured. “We need
to tell the Admiral what Mister Portman did,” Katy said heatedly,
looking from him to Chip.
“I’d love to, Katy, but Portman will insist we’re
lying or exaggerating because we’re Seamus’ friends.
Did you see him actually do anything?” Chip asked.
Katy blushed lightly, murmuring, “No, I was looking at
something else.” The angry
expression came back and she turned to glare in the direction that Portman
had disappeared. “But you
saw what he did, Mister Morton. You
had to have.”
“I saw Seamus go down, but not what happened just before,
much as I wish otherwise. Portman will insist it was an accident that’s being blown
out of proportion,” Chip said, frowning after Portman himself, shaking
his head. He looked back to
Harper with concern plainly visible on his face.
Harper had realized a while ago that Chip was the one that had
witnessed Jamieson’s ‘death is imminent’ face and that the Executive
Officer had been trying to be supportive without actually asking what was
wrong in the lab later that day. The
next time Harper saw him, after Chip had come around to check on him
again, Harper had told Chip about his haphazard immune system but had made
it plain that things were under control and that there was no reason to
worry. He also asked that
Chip not tell anyone else and, true to his word, he hadn’t.
He had, however, stopped by first thing every morning since to give
Harper a list of who at the Institute was ailing and, therefore, should be
avoided. Harper had been
touched by the effort, unnecessary as it was, and that Chip had his back.
“You all right, Shay?” Chip asked.
Harper rubbed his sore elbow and steadied his temper again,
thinking Portman couldn’t get his too soon.
fine,” Harper grumbled out. “Just
been having a hell of a day. Don’t
talk to the Admiral. Portman’ll
get his. Guys like him always
Chip grinned. “I’ll make sure to steer the next creature that attacks
the Seaview at Portman’s office.”
Concern dimmed the tall Executive Officer’s smile.
“Want to go see Jamieson?” he asked, nodding toward Harper’s
arm. Harper hadn’t realized
he was still absently rubbing it.
Harper shuddered at the thought.
Jamieson had looked over the medical history forms Harper had
brought him earlier and had been ready to do the whole thorough exam thing
all over again, thinking maybe he’d missed something because of
Harper’s less than gentle past. And
that was after reading the bits of it that Harper had put down on the
form, the things that he figured he had to say something about because
there was physical evidence still lingering on him, not the whole story.
Even with what Harper considered only minor incidents documented,
there had been more vitamins shoved at him and Jamieson had threatened him
with isolation again if he got too sick too soon or too often.
Harper didn’t know what constituted too soon, but he was going to
be very sure that if he got the sniffles, Jamieson would be the last
person to know. Harper stopped rubbing his elbow, flexing the joint, making
sure that everything was moving okay.
“I’m fine,” he repeated, wanting to give Jamieson a wide
berth for a while. Several
months sounded good right about that moment.
Chip’s mouth tightened, but he nodded.
“If you’re sure.”
“Very sure,” Harper said.
Katy picked up the book that had been knocked loose from his
hands in the fall and handed it back to him.
“I should get back. Are
you sure you’re all right, Seamus?” she asked, stroking his arm
gently. Harper was pretty
sure she wasn’t checking for broken bones, which made him feel like he
was doing something sleazy to Dom even though hadn’t done anything!
“Yeah,” Harper said with a quick nod and carefully but
swiftly moving his arm away from her. She looked worried, like maybe she thought she’d hurt him,
which only served to make Harper feel even worse.
“See ya round, Katy,” he said, offering her weak grin.
Katy seemed cheered because she smiled at him and then turned to
return to Nelson’s office. Harper let out of sigh.
What was he going to do? He
really liked Katy and didn’t want to hurt her feelings, but she was
obviously interested in more than he was.
Chip chuckled. “Somebody has a crush on you, Shay.”
“Yeah, yeah. Real funny. Twenty
five years of nothing and now that I actually find someone willing to
tolerate me, women come flying out of the woodwork,” Harper groused,
shaking his head. He looked
up at Chip with a frown. “I
really don’t want to hurt Katy’s feelings.
She’s been nothing but nice to me.
Of course the Admiral told her to take care of me, but I think
maybe she took it a little too much to heart.
Either that or she saw all the bruises before and decided I needed
some TLC. Honestly, I like
her, but not how I like Dom. I’d kind of like us to stay friends, but I don’t know how
to do that. Usually, girls
only ever want to be my friend! I
hear you’re good with women, though you thankfully failed with my
woman. What do I do?”
“I know what Katy would like you to do, though I doubt Dom
would go for it,” Chip teased him, mischief all over his features.
“Not helpful, Morton,” Harper told him with a scowl.
Chip chuckled again, enjoying himself way too much over his
predicament, but said, “Do you know Ben Englander?”
Harper shook his head.
“Never met him.”
“Ben’s one of the Institute’s mechanics,” Chip told
him. “He’s adored Katy
from afar for ages, but figured that Katy was too classy to even give him
a passing glance.”
“Yeah, well, she’s more than glancing at me and I’m
not exactly Prince Charming,” Harper said, then let his eyes narrow as
he looked away from Chip, thinking things over. “I think I need to go meet ol’ Ben and have a nice little
heart to heart about the unpredictability of what women find
“Those were my thoughts,” Chip said with a nod.
Now that Harper had that settled, he relaxed and let the
frown ease off his face. “How’s
all that rewiring coming?” he asked.
“We just finished. That’s
actually what I came looking for you about.
That little robot you gave me for the tight spots that usually give
us trouble and take forever worked like a dream.
Since I worked on them alone, it freed up the people that would
usually be fighting with it to do other areas.
I went through a ton of coin batteries, but it saved huge amounts
of time,” Chip told him, obviously very pleased.
That made Harper very pleased in turn.
He liked helping out friends and the robot had been very simple to
make. He’d whipped it up
for Chip after they’d talked about his immune system issues, mostly to
take his new friend’s mind off his health troubles.
Chip had watched the construction in fascination and they found
some common ground in their love of technology.
Harper could see that he still plainly needed to work on the power
issues of the robot, but he’d straighten that out soon enough.
“But it’s still our secret, right?” Harper asked, a
little worried about what the Admiral would say about his ‘forgetting’
a few developmental procedure steps.
“The robot is still kind of experimental and, you know,
classified and stuff.”
“You, me and the Seaview are the only ones that know about
it, and I doubt that the Seaview will talk,” Chip said with a grin.
Harper grinned back at him, wondering what the Admiral would think
about introducing an AI to the Seaview’s systems so that she could talk.
“Your robot saved us a good two or three days, which means we
aren’t that far off schedule. That
should put Lee in a better mood,” Chip replied.
Harper snorted. “Yeah, sure. Probably
with everybody but me.”
“We could tell him about the robot and how much it helped
get us back out to sea quickly,” Chip suggested.
Harper frowned, thinking he would have let Crane fish the
wires through the Seaview’s walls himself.
He could also picture Crane gleeful over having something to go to
the Admiral with. “No.
It probably wouldn’t help anyway.
He’d probably tell you that I made it to sabotage stuff, not fix
things, and make you redo all the wiring again,” Harper grumbled.
Chip nodded solemnly. “Much
as I’d like to think otherwise, you might be right about that.
Lee’s not trying to be unfair with you, Shay.
He’s not a bad person, quite the opposite in fact.
He’s just got something stuck in his head and until he works it
out, things are what they are. Hang in there. He’ll
come around and then he’ll be in your lab constantly, demanding that you
make more things like that robot for the Seaview.”
“Oh, joy,” Harper sighed, rolling his eyes.
“I wish he’d just deck me and get it over with, then we could
“Want me to offer to keep watch so he’ll feel like he
can take his time and do a really thorough job?” Chip said with laugh
nudging Harper toward the cafeteria, probably so they could both get some
coffee. Harper went without a
fight, willing to accept any excuse to have more coffee. That was something he and Chip could both agree to, that
coffee is the life’s blood of any techno geek.
“Gee, would ya, Chip?
What a pal,” Harper said sarcastically, getting anther chuckle
out of Chip. Harper felt
suddenly sad, though. He
could picture Beka saying exactly the same thing under the same
circumstances. He wished he
could tell her that he was all right, that he was happy for the most part.
Actually, he was happier than he’d ever been in his life and he
didn’t like thinking about Beka and Trance and Dylan worrying about him.
If they knew he was all right, that he was making a place for
himself and that he had a girlfriend that he hoped to make a permanent
part of his life and friends that looked out for him, then they might be
happy for him and know that what had happened wasn’t so bad.
He would have to think of some way of getting a message to them.
He would talk to the Admiral about it later. Maybe they could leave something for the Institute to deliver
in the far future. For now,
he hoped all of them were as all right as he was.
|Belonging, Chapter One|
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|Other Fan Fiction Contents Page|