* * *
Harper was in good spirits after going to say good morning to Dom
the next day. With Katy now
smiling at Ben Englander and the Seaview’s wiring problem taken care of,
he’d been in a great mood when it came time to call it quits yesterday.
He and Dom had gone around to her place and had a nice dinner and
an even nicer cuddle while they watched a movie on television.
If he could only figure out what to do about Crane and Portman,
Harper felt like the Institute would be one long, happy ride through life.
While walking up the corridor back to his lab thinking about just
that after having some breakfast with Dom and Riley, who had invited him
to do some surfing this weekend, Harper saw something that he never in his
life expected to see. Of
course, that had been happening a lot lately, so seeing an octopus pulling
itself along the floor near to the wall didn’t shock him as much as it
probably would have two weeks ago. He
walked up to it and it backed from him as he stooped down for a closer
“I’m guessing you’re Olivia,” he told the rubbery looking
creature, grinning. “I’ve
been hearing about you from Dom. You’re
heading the wrong way if you’re looking to make a break for it.
The ocean’s that way.” He
nodded over his left shoulder, still taking the creature in.
Her big eyes goggled at him and her tentacles moved about
restlessly. Harper wondered
what she felt like and slowly reached out a single finger toward the
creature. A tentacle met his
finger and wrapped loosely around it and his hand.
The suction cups felt odd, but not that unpleasant and Harper
“What are you doing with that thing?”
came Portman’s imperious voice from behind him and Harper felt his smile
turn instantly into a frown.
Harper remained crouched and glanced over his shoulder, half
wondering if Portman intended to push him over again.
If he did, Portman would find out why the other kids hadn’t
picked on Harper when he’d been growing up, at least not when it was one
on one. Being small and weak
in a place where that meant that you were the target of every predator
looking for someone easy to steal from or abuse had taught Harper to take
care of himself very early in life. Right
now, Portman’s crotch was within easy striking distance, so Harper
decided that if Portman knocked him over, he wouldn’t be the only one to
hit the floor and that he would be getting up a hell of a lot faster than
Portman would. He was through
taking cheap shots from this creep. “I’m
looking at her,” he replied, deciding not to give Portman any clue as to
what he’d been thinking. Then
he thought of something terrible. “How
long can an octopus live out of water?”
Portman made a disgusted face.
“How should I know? Doctor
Lorn should keep better a watch over her specimens.
I’ll go get a maintenance man to clear it up.”
Suddenly, Portman got a mean grin on his face. “Oh, but I forgot. You
are a maintenance man. Throw
that in a dumpster and, while you’re at it, the trash in my office could
use emptying. Might as well get used to it, Harper. After all, you can’t carry on this charade of being an
engineer forever and you might want to have some work that’s more
suitable to fall back on. You
and trash. Yes, quite a good
match.” Portman walked
away, laughing at his sad attempt at a jibe.
Harper scowled at him for a second, then decided that Olivia was
more important than Portman’s petty words.
He scooped up the spongy feeling creature and dashed over to the
Marine Biology wing. He
cursed to himself when he got to Dom’s office and she wasn’t there.
He went back out into the hall and searched the other doors for
Doctor Lorn’s name. Unfortunately, her office was empty as well.
Harper began to feel a little desperate as he turned back to the
hall, only to almost run into an elderly woman, Dom just behind her.
“Olivia! Where have
you been running off to now?” the woman said, taking the octopus
gingerly from Harper’s hands and carrying her back into her office.
She put the little creature into a tank behind her desk.
Olivia sank rapidly to the bottom then immediately drew herself
into some rocks in one corner and disappeared from view.
“She was over in Engineering.
Is she all right?” Harper asked worriedly.
He felt like he knew Olivia personally after Dom had told him all
about her and he didn’t want her to be hurt.
The woman, obviously Doctor Lorn, smiled at him.
“She’s fine, dear. Seamus
Harper, I take it?” Harper
nodded and breathed a sigh of relief.
Doctor Lorn looked him up and down, pausing at his shirt from the
WB Store to chuckle, then met his eyes, still smiling, and said, “Smart,
cute, and picked up an octopus with his bare hands.
I approve, Dom. You should keep him.”
“Yes, she should,” Harper agreed as he relaxed, looking to Dom
with a smile of his own as she moved next to him.
“See? An independent
“Don’t get him started, Bea,” Dom said, but she stretched up
and gave him a kiss on the cheek.
Harper smiled at first, then frowned, saying, ”You might want to
keep a closer eye on Olivia for a while, Doctor Lorn.
Portman wanted to throw her in a dumpster!”
Doctor Lorn got a miffed expression on her face.
“Then thank you for rescuing her from such a grisly fate, Mister
Harper. This isn’t the
first time he’s expressed his disregard for our work.
I’ll talk to the Admiral about his lack of respect, you can be
Dom gave him a worried look and stroked his arm.
“Was he being mean to you again?”
Harper rolled his eyes. “I
can handle the kids on the playground, mom.”
Then he felt bad about it because he knew Dom was upset about how
Portman had been treating him. She
liked taking care of people, him especially, and she couldn’t fix this.
It was probably driving her nuts.
He hugged her, saying, “You shouldn’t even think about it.
I’m used to being insulted by a way better class of people.
His sad attempts to make me feel insignificant are amateurish and
laughable at best.”
Doctor Lorn let out a delighted laugh.
“Oh, you definitely get to stay.
I’ll pummel Harri myself if he ever even thinks about letting you
Harper was pleased that Doctor Lorn seemed to like him, especially
considering how Portman and his cronies had been treating him.
“I’m not going anywhere, if only to irk ol’ Gregory,” he
“Good. Olivia was
obviously taken with you and she is an impeccable judge of character,”
Doctor Lorn said. “We were
lucky to have rescued her. Olivia
is actually a short armed octopus from Hawaii, a fairly rare species.
She had been in badly treated in a private collection.
Olivia’s here recovering and helping us with a few tests until
she’s ready to go back out on her own.
I think Harri will be taking her the next time the Seaview is
headed out to Hawaii. She certainly seems ready to leave us, doesn’t she?”
Doctor Lorn laughed affectionately.
“I’ll miss her, but she’s helped us so much with what we’re
doing, so she’s more than paid for her medication and doctoring.”
“Dom was telling me some of what you’re doing,” Harper said
nodding. “Something about
how Olivia reacts to certain sounds underwater.”
“That’s right. Sound is very important under the water.
We are trying to see how a small creature, like Olivia, responds to
sounds that would be common to her area of the ocean,” Doctor Lorn
Harper nodded. “And the Admiral was telling me about... what I guess would
be mutant sea creatures that attack the Seaview sometimes.
He was saying that he wished he could get more of them back to you
for tests, but he usually has to kill them to keep them from sinking the
Seaview. I was wondering, do
you think that sound would work as a deterrent?
You know, have the Seaview broadcast something that would scare the
critter in question for long enough for the Admiral to... I don’t
know... stun it or something?”
Doctor Lorn gave him another warm smile.
“I see why Olivia likes you.
I’ve always thought that it’s terrible that so many unique
finds have to be destroyed out of hand because there is no other way to
preserve human life. Do you
think you could make a device like that, Mister Harper?”
“If you and Dom can give me a range of tones to work with,
probably,” Harper said with a nod.
Dom got a pensive look on her face.
“What about something that would confuse radar or sonar or
torpedo tracking systems? The
Admiral would certainly be happy to have something that would keep us from
getting shot at so much,” she added.
“I would be happy if
you didn’t get shot at ever again, thank you very much!” Harper
getting a little alarmed at the thought of it. Dom
had talked to him about that sort of stuff happening, but that had been
before they were dating and now it finally hit home.
“Maybe you should just stay here at the Institute for now on.
Think of it. Loving
boyfriend ready with massages, pampering, and any desire you have there at
your side at a moment’s notice.”
Doctor Lorn let out a longing sigh.
“Sounds impossible,” Dom said with little grin and a shake of
her head. “You know that
I’m the Admiral’s assistant, Seamus.
How can I assist if I’m here and he’s off in the middle of the
Pacific? That isn’t the
point anyway. Even if I were
here, I would still want the Seaview protected a little better.”
“What about a sound canon, then?” Harper said, thinking more
carefully about it. “Something
that you could use as a missile countermeasure, that would flick a torpedo
or depth charge away from you?”
“How would that work? Like
a focused sonic boom?” Doctor Lorn asked, sounding intrigued.
“Something like that,” Harper said with a nod.
“All of this sounds rather futuristic.
Do you think you could actually do it, Seamus?” Doctor Lorn
asked. Harper didn’t miss
that she had decided to use his first name, but didn’t mind it at all.
“Seamus is good at futuristic,” Dom said with a smile.
She took his arm and gave him that ‘I adore it when your
intelligence is showing’ look. It
got him all hot and bothered every time and Harper wished they were alone
as he stroked her face.
“I’m sold. I’ll
talk to Harri about all this and get things approved for development,”
Doctor Lorn said, clapping her hands together with a gleeful look.
“Then I intend to make an absolute pest of myself with you until
we have a functioning prototype.”
“I’ll make the coffee if you bring the donuts,” Harper said,
figuring he’d let Doctor Lorn know she wouldn’t be bothering him.
“Or a little something stronger for the coffee?” Doctor Lorn
asked, giving Harper on conspiratorial wink.
“Wouldn’t say no to that either,” Harper replied with a grin.
He really liked Doctor Lorn.
“This is going to be fun!” Doctor Lorn giggled, sounding
infinitely pleased. “It’ll
be like having Harri here even when he’s gone!
I’m going to go assault his ear about this right now!
Don’t do anything in front of Olivia that you don’t want her
telling me about!” With that, she trotted out of her office.
Dom was still looking adoringly up at him, so Harper waggled his
eyebrows at her, asking. “Want
to shock the octopus, Baby?”
Dom laughed and gave him a pretty thorough kiss, but then said,
“You’d better go finish whatever you’re working on for the next
stage of that reactor of yours or whatever the Admiral has you working on.
I have the feeling Bea is going to be camped out at your lab the
instant the Admiral gives your new idea approval.”
Harper pulled her to him and nuzzled her neck, saying, “You
should come too, to help us out.”
“You just want to seduce me with your brilliance,” Dom giggled
as he nibbled an earlobe. It had been an awesome moment when Harper had worked out that
Dom got turned on by shows of intellect.
Finally, someone who appreciated men for one of his best qualities!
Harper had spent that evening and every one since then talking
about the technical aspects of whatever he was working on or things from
the Andromeda. He knew full
well that Dom didn’t have a clue what he was talking about, but the hot
stare she gave him when he was doing it and the very enthusiastic kissing
he got afterwards was what he was going for anyway.
If only he could figure out what aspect of science would get Dom to
tear off his clothes, he would be sure to have long dissertations on the
topic at the ready at all times.
“And this is different from normal how?” he breathed into her
ear. Dom turned his chin and
captured his lips again, but eased from his arms when she broke off the
kiss. “‘Go to work,
Seamus,’ right?” he said, giving her a look of disappointment.
“Tonight, my place, we can pick up where we just left off,” Dom
said, giving him a look that made him wish it was way closer to quitting
“Can I whisper calculus in your ear on the off chance that you
might be feeling sinful?” Harper asked.
Hey, there was always the chance, right?
Dom laughed softly and shook her head at him, pretty much telling
him that he had no chance whatsoever of getting past first base any time
soon. He was going to need
another cold shower after he got back to his place tonight.
There were some things that were tough about dating a determined
virgin, but Harper was equally determined that he would be the one to
introduce Dom to the joys of sex someday. “Want to meet up for lunch?” she asked him.
Harper sighed and shook his head.
“Much as I would love to, I’m doing this hologram demonstration
tomorrow and I’m supposed to have something written up on it and
miniaturization techniques so that the Admiral and I can talk things over
at lunch.” He glanced at
the clock on Doctor Lorn’s wall and sighed.
“I’d better get back to it.
I swear, paper work is gonna kill me.”
Dom laughed softly and shook her head at him and he gave her a
quick kiss. “Tonight,
right?” he confirmed as he squeezed her hands for a second.
“I’ll be at your lab at five,” she told him as she let him
go. He gave her one last,
quick kiss on the cheek, then took off at a fast walk toward his lab.
However, instead of thinking about the presentation he was supposed
to be working out, he was focused on the sound canon.
He would have it on the Seaview, ready for action before the sub
shipped out again. There was no way he wasn’t going to make sure that Dom and
Admiral were as safe as possible when they were away from him.
He wasn’t losing the people he loved this time.
This time he was going to have happily ever after.
Admiral Nelson had always liked Beatrice Lorn and getting her to
work with the Institute back when he had first established it had been a
coup. Of course, Lucius Emery
had helped to convince her. Sometimes Nelson missed Lucius, who had loved his sharks the
way Bea loved her octopuses. Working
with the two of them had always been an honor and a pleasure for Nelson.
Bea had been in his office for the last hour basically trying to
steal Harper away for her own uses. The
boy had apparently saved Doctor Lorn’s wayward, short armed octopus from
coming to harm during her most recent escape attempt.
What Bea had told him about Mister Portman’s comments had been
very displeasing to be sure and Nelson began to think he would might have
to put an official disciplinary proceeding into action.
It seemed Mister Portman had not been listening as intently as he
had should have been yesterday, because Bea also seemed to have gotten the
impression that he’d had some less than flattering words for Harper as
“Of course, I wouldn’t allow such things to go on while you are
gone on one of your little ocean voyages,” Bea told him, sounding a
little too enthusiastic about her proposed project and others that she’d
hinted at that she thought Harper would be ever so helpful with.
“You know how I feel about bullies, even verbal ones, and Seamus
would be very safe any such nonsense in my lab and office.
I think we would get amazing amounts of work done together and
think of the new specimens you could show off.”
“And I have the feeling that Harper would never leave your lab
once you got hold of him. Bea,
you cannot have my new engineer,” Nelson told her again as he leaned
back in his chair, sipping some of his coffee as he grinned about the
whole thing. “He already
has a pending project list as thick as a dictionary to work on.”
“Oh, those things can wait,” Bea said dismissively.
“Think of it, Harri. New
weapon deterrents and a way to capture new species, all in one tidy package.
The Navy will salivate. Woods
Hole will plead with you to share. I
only want him for one cruise, after all, much as you seem to think
otherwise. It’s not as though I would keep him forever.
That’s what you should worry about with Dominica.
Or visa versa. What
are you going to do when he takes her away from you?”
Nelson’s brow knit. “Beatrice,
they both work for me and Seamus is content here with us.
Why in heaven’s name would I be concerned about him taking
Dominica away from the Institute?”
Bea smiled warmly at him and shook her head.
“Not from the Institute, Harri, from you. You’ve had Dominica all to yourself every time you leave
port since she joined us. Now
there is a young man in the picture, one that she looks at with the same
adoring eyes that she’s only had for you since she came here.
The way she’s talked about him, Harri.
She’s in love, even if she hasn’t used the actual word yet and
from what I just saw in my office, the feeling is very much mutual.
What will you do when she takes his name, when she has his children
and drifts away from adventure to live a normal life on land?”
Nelson frowned a little. “I
have absolutely no romantic intentions toward Doctor Babin, Beatrice.
I’m actually quite happy she’s finally seeing someone,
especially someone that I have no problem getting along with.
As for children, that is a matter I will concern myself with when
it arises. Honestly, Bea, do
you think I’m so petty that I would begrudge two young people their
happiness because I’m worried about how it would affect me?”
Bea got an amused expression on her face.
“Of course not, Harri. Actually,
now that I think about it, I look forward to the day when you are ‘Uncle
Harri’ and bouncing toddlers on your knee.
It will do you a world of good.
Now, if you want my help with the inevitable babysitting you will
be doing, not to mention convincing Dominica that Seamus and their
multitude of children will be able to cope without her for a few weeks
here and there, you’ll let me borrow Seamus for just a little while
“Beatrice Lorn, you cannot blackmail me with things that aren’t
even close to happening yet,” Nelson told her sternly.
Bea got up, giving him another lighthearted laugh.
“You’ll see, Harri. I
think you’ll be surprised how quickly things are going to unfold between
the two of them. And I intend to have my project and engineering assistance
approved before your submarine is repaired.
I have not yet begun to fight!”
With that, Bea let herself out of Nelson’s office, obviously not
at all daunted by having been refused.
The door had barely closed when suddenly Barris was standing in
front of Nelson’s desk. Nelson
frowned. He really had to get
a laser pistol and keep it on him from now on. “Go away,” he said to Barris, then snatched up the pack
of cigarettes on his desk. He
was in no mood to deal with Barris at all.
“Now, now, Admiral,” Barris said with his toothy smile.
“Is that any way to speak to someone who has only your best
interest in mind?”
“I sincerely doubt that,” Nelson told Barris, then lit a
cigarette. “Now leave.”
“You don’t want me to, I assure you.
There is...” Barris started.
“There is nothing I want from you, Mister Barris,” Nelson told
the alien tersely. “Nothing.
Nothing now, nothing later, nothing ever.
Go away. Bother
someone else, somewhere else, but do not bother me again.
“But...” Barris persisted.
“Go!” Nelson ordered him sternly.
Barris frowned. “Very well, but you will be sorry.” And with that, he vanished.
Nelson was anything but sorry, though.
He actually smiled. Maybe
Barris would stay gone this time. Feeling
very good about the alien’s quick departure, Nelson smoked his cigarette
and did a little work on the upgrade he was planning for the Flying Sub.
It wasn’t until several hours later when Katy informed him that
Mister Harper was there to see him that Nelson realized any time at all
“Hey, Boss,” Harper said with his usual bright smile as he
entered the office.
“Mister Harper,” Nelson said with a nod, then took in what
Harper was wearing. The shirt
had a large picture of Wile E. Coyote with the bright red words “Wile E.
Coyote: Supergenius” stenciled over it on one side of the buttons.
On the other side and presumably across the back were smaller
pictures of the cartoon character coming to physical harm when his
experiments went awry. Nelson
sighed to himself. While the
shirt definitely suited Harper and was rather amusing, Nelson made a
mental note that he would have to let the boy know that it was something
better suited to the weekend if he wanted to be taken seriously.
Then something else dawned on him and he gave Harper a quizzical
look because the boy had come empty handed.
“I thought we were going to go over your presentation.”
“About that...” Harper started hesitantly as his smile flagged,
then blinked at Nelson’s computer screen and grinned again.
Nelson smiled a little in spite of himself.
Someday he would have to find a way of keeping Harper from becoming
so easily distracted, assuming that was what had happened to the
presentation write up that Harper had failed to produce.
He could only wonder how far the boy had gotten on Doctor Lorn’s
sound net. He’d have food
sent into his office and he and Harper would work on the presentation
together, well away from other distractions.
“That is my Flying Sub,” Nelson told him.
“Or what I’m hoping to one day make her over into.
I’m afraid I’ve drifted off into the realms of fantasy, though. You see, I’ve been talking to Miss Simmons about wanting a
space ready version of the Flying Sub and she very rightly told me that
there was no way that we can do it, much as I would like to have it.”
Harper’s eyes were moving quickly over what was on the computer
screen. “Huh,” he
grunted, then looked at Nelson. “How’s
by Christmas sound?”
Nelson gave him a narrow look.
“Well, I could probably build it in a few weeks, but all the
paper work and testing and stuff would take longer than the actual
building,” Harper said with an unconcerned shrug.
“You... you could build... that,” Nelson nodded over his
shoulder at the computer, holding Harper’s eyes with his own, “in a
Harper grinned widely and laughed, “Well, not that exactly!
The environmentals are all wrong and the hull structure and
engines...” Harper paused and shook his head with pursed lips as he
looked back at Nelson’s little fantasy vessel on the computer, “...
too bulky. You’ll lose all
your maneuverability with those on such a small ship.
Besides, that looks like a low orbital shuttle, not a warship. Can’t be a lander. No
landing struts! Landing gear
doesn’t work so well on uneven surfaces, so you’re planning to land
that on an airfield or in a hanger, right?
So, for a shuttle you want shielding, not plating.
Your main vessel has the muscle and bulk for a fight, right?”
Harper looked back at him, his face relaxed as though he’d just
been discussing the weather, not reinventing space travel and putting it
into the Institute’s hands. Nelson
stared at him in silence for a moment and Harper smiled warmly.
“Earth to the Boss! What?
Is there something on my face?”
“I could kiss your face!” Nelson exclaimed suddenly with a huge
smile of his own as he swarmed around his desk and grasped Harper by the
upper arms. Harper cringed a
little in Nelson’s grasp and under his gaze, but Nelson didn’t let him
go and asked, “You could do it? You
could build what you’re talking about, these improved environmental
systems and some sort of shielding, for my Flying Sub?
In weeks, not years?” Harper
nodded quickly, looking a little afraid.
Nelson laughed and patted the boy enthusiastically on the back.
“Seamus, you just became my Chief of Technical Operations in our
new Space Research and Exploration Department.
Congratulations. We’ll discuss your raise and your staff and facility needs
later. Right now, tell me
about this improved shuttle you were talking about.”
Harper gave him a still tense, cautious look.
“You’re not mad at me? I
mean, for correcting you and not working on my presentation and stuff?”
“I am the exact opposite of mad at the moment, Seamus,” Nelson
assured him, still grinning widely and patting him a little more gently on
the arm. He could only hope
he hadn’t bruised Harper’s arms when he’d grabbed him a moment ago,
but if he had, he would make it up to the boy.
Harper’s tense expression faltered and he began to look confused.
“Staff and facility needs?” he asked, not seeming to understand
the words, or at least the context in which they had just been used.
“Later,” Nelson told Harper with a little laugh, thinking that
having Harper for a Department Head was going to make life interesting at
the Institute in of itself. Nelson
sat him down in front of his desk and looked him in the eyes again,
saying, “Now, focus. Low
orbital craft. Start
describing it in detail.” Harper
gave him a careful look and then started talking about building a new
Flying Sub capable of achieving Earth orbit without changing its size and
doing it in months, not years. Nelson
couldn’t stop smiling and patting the boy’s shoulder at what he was
hearing. Harper was going to
bring space within reach of the Institute.
Bea had just lost any chance she’d ever had of winning her joking
bet. Harper wasn’t going to
be working with her any time in the near future.
He was going to be far too busy.
|Belonging, Chapter One|
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|Other Fan Fiction Contents Page|