* * *
Dylan couldn’t believe that Andromeda hadn’t woke him when
communication had failed with the Maru.
“So we’ve had nothing from them for six hours?” Dylan asked
as he hurriedly dressed. He
didn’t know why he was hurrying. There
was no where for him to rush to, nothing really that he could do about
this alarming development. He
just felt like he had to do something!
“Six hours, twenty seven minutes,” the Andromeda’s hologram
informed him. “But Dylan,
as Tyr rightly pointed out, if the Lechak Bon’s home world is cut off
from the rest of the universe, that condition might extend to
“Might,” Dylan muttered under his breath.
He was so sick of all the uncertainty that had been in his life
lately. He wished sometimes
that things were simple again, like they had been before he’d been
caught in the event horizon of a black hole.
The entire universe had fallen into chaos while he’d been trapped
there for three hundred years and it seemed like it wasn’t done trying
to spin out of control. As if
the Magog Worldship and the Abyss weren’t enough to deal with, he
thought with a heavy sigh, now almost his entire crew was missing and the
one person left was a Nietzschean mercenary that would very much like to
have the Andromeda for his own purposes.
What else could possibly go wrong?
“Captain Hunt,” Dylan heard almost the instant he stepped out
of his quarters. Dylan felt
like turning around and walked straight back into them, unable to believe
that he’s left Perseid scientists that refused to leave off his list of
Sighing to himself, Dylan straightened his shoulders, which were
attempting a defeated droop without his permission, and said, “Yes,
Technical Advisor Rollan. What
can I do for you?”
The Perseid gave him a very sour look and said, “I would like to
know when Chief Engineer Seamus Harper will be returning to your vessel.
We still have not found the missing pieces of his device and have
questions concerning several of his partially completed projects.
We have been waiting rather a long time for your Chief Engineer,
Captain Hunt, with a most disagreeable Nietzschean... person following us
kept himself from frowning somehow, half wondering where Tyr was at the
moment, since Rollan and his assistant were here.
“Mister Harper was... removed involuntarily from the Andromeda
and we are working on securing his return,” Dylan replied.
“Involuntarily...” Rollan repeated hesitantly, confusion then
alarm crossing his features. “You
mean to say that Chief Engineer Harper was kidnapped?!”
“Not... precisely,” Dylan replied carefully. He didn’t want Rollan to panic and send for any sort of assistance. Two Perseids were more than enough to deal with at the moment. “The person that removed him from the Andromeda did not retain custody of Mister Harper, or so they have lead me to believe. He was... deposited somewhere and we are trying to ascertain his current location.”
“Chief Engineer Harper was kidnapped and has been exiled in an
undisclosed location!” Rollan exclaimed in alarm.
Dylan sighed. Well, so much for avoiding panic. “Was that... person that you were attacking earlier the one
that took Chief Engineer Harper? And
he wants to join your crew? What
is going on here, Captain Hunt?”
“That is classified information,” Dylan said, falling back on
his military experience, thinking that telling Rollan things were
classified was far less offensive than telling the Perseid it was none of
his damned business. “Technical
Advisor Rollan, perhaps it would be better for you to return to Sinti.
I will contact you the moment this situation has been resolved.”
“That is unacceptable,” Rollan replied, looking affronted.
“Until you are prepared to tell me exactly what is going on, I
will continue my search of Chief Engineer Harper’s work areas.”
With that, Rollan turned and stomped off down the corridor, his
silent and now very worried looking assistant trailing him.
Dylan watched him go, at a loss.
What did he need to do to get these insane Perseids to leave?
How could Harper work with these people without going crazy
himself? He rubbed his eyes, feeling tired suddenly despite the sleep
that he had gotten. He was
sorely tempted to go back into his quarters and not come out again until
somebody had something positive to tell him.
No, he told himself, then turned and started toward the Command
Deck. He was not going to let
the ridiculousness of what was going on defeat him.
He was going to find out what had happened become of his crew no
matter he needed to do to accomplish that.
Sighing again, Dylan wished he knew were to start to find some of
the answers he was determined to get.
* * *
Sharkey got called to Nelson’s office a little after two
o’clock in the afternoon and arrived to find a short, skinny blond there
with the Admiral. Most likely
this was the Harper guy that everyone had been talking about.
He didn’t look like he would be much trouble, Sharkey thought,
giving him a quick visual once over. Harper was small and harmless looking, sitting almost
bonelessly in a chair in front of the Admiral’s desk.
Sharkey knew Harper was supposed to be in his middle twenties
somewhere, but he looked a lot younger, especially the cartoon character
shirt he was wearing. Why was
everyone going so nuts about him? Doc
Babin could probably take him in a fair fight, Sharkey thought with a
Of course, Harper was supposed to be a genius, which was what had
all the other Institute Engineers feeling threatened.
Sharkey had been listening to them in the cafeteria from time to
time over the last few days. The
way they ripped Harper apart verbally when talking to each other, he
obviously scared the pants off them.
Portman especially made sure that the Seaview’s crew knew that
Harper had been homeless until Nelson had taken him in and that the kid
didn’t have a High School diploma, much less a college degree.
He wanted to make enemies for Harper wherever he could, make the
kid feel unwelcome and unwanted. Sharkey
simply didn’t have time for that kind of nonsense, thinking that grown
men should have better things to do with their time than play school kid
“Chief, I’d like you to meet Seamus Zelazny Harper,” Nelson
said as he rose. Harper got
up and turned to him with an outstretched hand.
“Zelazny?” Sharkey said with a snicker, but he took Harper’s
hand. The kid had a nice,
firm handshake and didn’t seem to take offense at Sharkey’s quiet
“Seamus, this is Francis Ethelbert Sharkey, my Chief Petty
Officer,” Nelson continued the introduction with a wicked little grin.
Who ever said that the Admiral had no sense of humor?
“Ethelbert?” Harper giggled, his smile claiming his whole face.
“For real? I thought
I had it bad.” Sharkey
couldn’t very well get mad over the comment.
After all, he’d had the first laugh at Harper.
“Chief, I’d like you to take Harper down to the Flying Sub and
go over existing systems with him. Harper tells me he can get her into orbit and I think he
doesn’t have a clear impression of his spatial limitations,” Nelson
said before things could get out of hand.
“Like I told you at lunch, Boss, you’re thinking too bulky for
the Flying Sub refit. For
that you need to keep things small and light, but tough.
Think me rather than your average body builder.
We’ll work on a ship that can brave the Sun’s corona later,”
Harper said with an insistent tone.
“You think you can make the Flying Sub space worthy?” Sharkey
asked uncertainly. It
didn’t seem possible to him. How
would they get the FS1 up into space in the first place?
“I know I can.
It’s convincing everyone else that’s the problem,” Harper
said, giving the Admiral a tight lipped look of frustration.
“You take a look at it first hand, Seamus, then tell me how
you’re going to squeeze everything we’d need into the Flying Sub and
still fit some pilots,” Nelson said with a good natured chuckle.
“You won’t have to squeeze anything anywhere,” Harper told
him firmly, obviously pretty sure of himself.
Nelson’s indulgent smile told Sharkey that he was pushing
Harper’s buttons, that the Admiral thought the kid could do it too.
Sharkey still didn’t know how, though.
“And you can tell me how, exactly, you’re going to accomplish
that when you get back,” Nelson said, nodding them on their way.
“Don’t let Mister Harper change anything just yet, Chief.”
“Yes, sir,” Sharkey said, wondering if the Admiral was kidding
about that or not.
Sharkey lead the way out of Nelson’s office, but Harper trotted
up next to him when they were in the corridor and gave him a big grin.
“Dom tells me that if you weren’t around, the Seaview would be
in chaos constantly.”
“The Skipper and the Admiral wouldn’t let things get out of
hand, Harper,” Sharkey told the kid firmly.
“Oh, I’m sure, but they can’t be everywhere all the time.
Riley tells me it’s scary how you are,” Harper replied,
Sharkey smiled smugly. Riley
thought he was scary? Good!
“Riley needs a lot of looking after,” Sharkey stated, then gave
Harper one of his steely Chief’s glares.
“Do you need a lot of looking after, Harper?”
The Chief suspected that the kid could be a handful.
“Me? Nah,” Harper
said with a sunny smile. Sharkey
barely kept himself from rolling his eyes, thinking that Harper reminded
him an awful lot of Riley already. “Dom
tells me that you and some of the other guys on the Seaview really look
out for her. That’s
probably the only reason I won’t be freaking out the whole time she’s
at sea. She might not say it,
but I appreciate it.”
Sharkey shrugged to the comment, not really knowing how to respond
to it right away. It had
seemed a strange, Doc Babin suddenly having a boyfriend, but Harper seemed
like a decent enough guy. At
least he wasn’t all jealous about the Doc being at sea with a hundred
other guys while he was stuck back at the Institute. For some reason, Sharkey had thought Harper might feel
threatened by that alone, but the kid seemed good with the situation.
“You don’t need to worry about the Doc.
We all watch out for each other on the Seaview,” Sharkey told
“Yeah and that’s cool,” Harper said with a nod, then grinned
again. “You know, Dom was
saying we ought to have everybody over for some dinner and cards and stuff
before you guys all ship out again.”
Sharkey grimaced a little, saying, “She mentioned it.”
Sharkey always felt strange about socializing with the Seaview’s
officers, much as Doc Babin didn’t flash her rank around.
She had invited him to her little shindig, but he hadn’t made his
mind up about going or not. If
it were just the men from the Seaview going, he might go around to keep
them in line, but she had a boyfriend now, tiny as he was, and the sailors
would respect that.
“It sounds like fun,” Harper said enthusiastically as they got
onto the elevator down to the Seaview’s underground docking area.
“I’ve never thrown a party before.
Kinda looking forward to it.”
Sharkey cast a quick glance sideways at Harper.
He had his hands in his pockets and he had this big, sunny smile on
his face. He was rocking from
heels to toes, looking happy with life in general.
Why were the other Engineers intimidated by this guy?
Harper seemed nice enough, which was probably why Doc Babin was
dating him, but he sure didn’t come off as scary smart, like the
Admiral. Of course, Harper
had been talking about upgrading the Flying Shuttle so that it was space
worthy and the Admiral was acting like the kid wasn’t just blowing
smoke. Sharkey did a mental
shrug, turning his eyes forward again as the elevator doors opened again.
Maybe he just wasn’t seeing it.
“How are the Seaview repairs coming?” Harper asked as they
stepped out of the elevator and headed for the Seaview’s dry dock.
“We’ll get there,” Sharkey replied, not sure how much Harper
was supposed to know about that.
“I’m sure. I just
remember rushing around doing repairs on the Andromeda by myself most of
the time. Sure would have
been nice to have more than one or two people to help me. I’m getting into this whole team concept,” Harper
babbled. Boy, this kid sure
liked to talk, Sharkey thought as they went down the cement steps to the
quay. Sharkey held to his
silence, figuring he’d have enough to talk about when they go to the
Flying Sub. “Uh, Chief
Sharkey?” Harper said uncertainly as he looked into the channel as they
walked along it, Sharkey focusing on his goal.
“Yeah, kid,” Sharkey sighed out, wondering what he was going to
have to be evasive about now.
“Why would the water be doing that?” Harper asked, stopping and
looking at something in the channel.
That got Sharkey to stop too.
He moved next to Harper and saw the water in the channel churning
in a very disquieting manner. Sharkey barely got time to look at it before something huge
shot up out of the water and let out a squeal that was close enough to
fingernails down a chalkboard to make every hair on Sharkey’s body stand
up straight. A huge,
dripping, nightmare of a creature loomed over them, tentacles emerging out
onto the quay as it started to pull itself out of the channel.
Harper let out a frightened squeak and moved back fast, for which
Sharkey was grateful. The
last thing he needed was for the Admiral’s new, prize engineer to get
“Get out of here, kid! Go!”
Sharkey said, giving Harper pointed shove back in the direction of the
elevator. The kid went at a
run, thankfully, without further urging, leaving Sharkey free to deal with
the latest batch of insanity that assailed the Seaview far too regularly.
Sharkey made for the arms locker at the back of the dock, shouts
and screams already starting to sound out in his wake.
He unlocked the metal door quickly and started tossing weapons into
any hand that reached for them, reserving a lazar rifle for himself.
The creature, which looked like part squid, part tiger and part
mountain, had pulled itself up on the quay and was shrieking as it tossed
sailors around and made toward where the Seaview hung in its dry dock.
“Damn it, we haven’t even finished fixing her yet!” Sharkey
snarled, moving between the creature and the Seaview and letting the thing
have it with both barrels. Gun,
rifle and lazar fire pelted the creature from every direction, but the
creature didn’t seem to be taking any damage. It did stop, however, and started lashing out at the men
around it with its tentacles, snapping at men with its huge beak.
Bowling sailors over like ten pins and slapping others across the
quay, the monster undulated around, edging closer to the Seaview.
Sharkey never stopped firing, the lazar growing hot in his hands as
he tried to hit the things eyes or get it in its mouth when it opened its
beak to shriek again. Tentacles kept getting in his way, making Sharkey curse and
forcing him to take a step back to keep out of its reach.
That was when somebody managed to hit the thing in the eye, which
drove the creature back a step and made its shriek take on an edge of
pain. Sharkey was thrilled
with that until the creature lashed out and snatched up a couple of guys,
swinging them around violently. “No!”
Sharkey yelled, redoubling his efforts. It didn’t help when he saw it was Kowalski and Stevens in
the monster’s grip. The
creature starting to bring them toward its beak after lashing them around
into senselessness. It was
going to kill them, Sharkey thought in horror.
The creature was going to eat them and he was helpless to stop it!
Suddenly, there was movement at Sharkey’s elbow and there was a
whoosh BOOM! sound that he had never heard before filling the docking
area, making his ears ring. Something
invisible seemed to smack the creature hard and it staggered backwards
almost to the water, dropping Kowalski and Stevens as it fought to regain
its balance. Sharkey took a
second to look next to him, only to see that Harper was back, a fiercely
determined look on his face and some sort of fat half gun, half stereo
speaker in his hands, aimed at the creature.
“Aw, crap!” Harper squeaked out, his face falling, and he
started turning dials frantically as the creature regained its footing and
started back at them with speed. Before
Sharkey or Harper could do more than acknowledge the movement, the weapon
was smacked out of Harper’s hands as he and Harper were bowled over by a
tentacle. Harper was yanked
abruptly toward the creature, a tentacle around one of his legs.
“Turn up the gain! Shoot it! Turn
up the gain and shoot it!” he yelled in hysteria at Sharkey as the
creature drew him up into the air.
Sharkey snatched up Harper’s weapon, but didn’t know what to
make of it. It had slowed the
creature down for a second when nothing else had, so Sharkey could see
where turning it to a higher setting might do better, but he didn’t know
how to do it. “How?”
Sharkey shouted back, but Harper had troubles of his own.
The creature whipped him to one of its big eyes violently as he
screamed in terror, then smacked him hard into the channel wall.
There was a thud audible even at the distance Sharkey was at and
Harper went limp and silent, the creature yanked him down and into the
water of the channel rather than letting him go.
Patterson, who was nearby, dropped his gun and dove in after the
kid. Horror at the quickly
worsening situation blossomed in Sharkey and he started turning every dial
on the Harper’s weapon as far to the right as they would go then brought
the weapon back up to his shoulder.
Sharkey never thought that you could see sound until he pulled the
trigger of the weapon. As something like a sonic boom filled the docking area,
Sharkey could swear that he saw the air ripple in a column toward the
creature. It flew backwards,
one of its eyes bursting messily, but it tried to recover and pull itself
back into action. Sharkey
didn’t give it a chance, firing again with confidence now that he had
the aim of the sound gun figured out.
This blow caught the creature dead center and threw it into the
channel wall, which cracked under the force of the blow.
The creature let out a wheeze, then collapsed half on the quay,
half in the channel, and didn’t move again.
There were moans and shouts as the men started to pick themselves
up, but Sharkey took no notice of them.
He dropped the sound gun and ran to the channel’s edge, searching
the water frantically. Some of the other men came too, murmuring in concern, but
Sharkey ignored them as he cast his eyes everywhere clear in the channel.
The water was still churning around, but Sharkey didn’t see
Patterson or Harper. Just as
he was about to rip off his shoes and dive in, Patterson surfaced, tugging
Harper’s limp body after him.
Everyone knew the drill. Harper
was out of the water and being handed up onto the quay quickly, but
carefully, the men making every effort not to move his neck or back.
Sharkey was there when he was laid out, quickly feeling for
respiration and a pulse, finding neither.
He ripped the kid’s shirt open and listened through his t-shirt
at his chest. There was
“Come on, kid. Don’t die on my watch.
Your girlfriend’ll never forgive me,” Sharkey muttered as he
made sure Harper’s mouth and breathing passage were clear, then started
CPR. Before he knew it,
Nelson was there, taking over blowing air into the kid’s lungs as
Sharkey kept up the chest compressions.
“Breathe, kid, breathe,” Sharkey muttered as they worked.
“What happened?” came Jamieson’s voice.
He and a corpsman took over trying to bring Harper back.
As the corpsman forced air into the kid’s lungs, Jamieson ripped
Harper’s t-shirt open to put sensor pads quickly down on him.
Sharkey’s breath caught as he saw the scars all over the kid’s
chest and stomach, his mind not able to accept them being there.
Harper was a happy go lucky guy, not the sort that might have been
subjected to that sort of damage. There
were a couple of gasps from group of men watching from nearby.
Sharkey wasn’t the only one taken aback by this revelation. Someone had tortured Harper, had cut him up and burned him
bad and done other terrible things to him, and not recently.
Fury rose from Sharkey’s gut, making his vision go a little red.
Who would do this, and to a child?
No wonder the Admiral was being so protective of Harper.
The kid had been kicked around way too much already.
“That thing, Harper got it to drop Stevens and Kowalski with that
sound weapon of his, but he didn’t hit it hard enough and it grabbed
him, smacked him into the wall and dragged him under,” Patterson said as
Jamieson picked up where Sharkey had left off.
Jamieson just grunted in response to what Pat had said,
concentrating on bringing Harper’s heart back into action.
Sharkey stared at the monitor, at the straight line that said that
Harper’s heart wasn’t beating. The
line jumped slightly with each compression Jamieson made, but that was it.
“Damn it, Harper, don’t make me sorry I didn’t lock you up
somewhere sterile when I had the chance,” Jamieson swore under his
breath as kept pumping on the kid’s chest. He was eyeing the defibrillator on the cart that held the
monitor, but seemed to be hesitant to use it for some reason.
“Just breathe, kid,” Sharkey willed the engineer softly.
As if on cue, Harper’s body jerked just as the monitor’s line
began to show a rhythm. Harper
started coughing up water and throwing up what looked to be everything
he’d eaten over the last three days.
Jamieson and the corpsman quickly moved the kid onto his side and
they held Harper until he stopped retching and fell still again. He
didn’t seem to have regained consciousness even with all the vomiting.
As they laid him on his back and put an oxygen mask on him, Sharkey
found himself letting go of a breath he hadn’t realized that he’d been
holding. He couldn’t
believe how relieved he was that Harper was alive.
The rhythm of Harper’s heart looked unsteady, but it was beating
and Jamieson had settled back on his heels, drawing a few steadying
“Get an ambulance here, on the double!” the Skipper was
ordering from somewhere behind Sharkey.
“No,” Nelson countermanded the order sternly.
Sharkey turned to him, giving him a look of confusion, but Nelson
either didn’t notice or didn’t care.
“Jamie, you can see to him all right, can’t you?
You know what would happen at a hospital.”
Jamieson’s mouth tightened for a moment, showing that the doctor
agreed with the Admiral’s statement, but wasn’t happy about it.
Sharkey’s confusion intensified.
Why would Harper going to a hospital make something happen?
“I might change my mind about that, Admiral.
I need to do a thorough examination to make sure that drowning was
the worst thing that happened to him, but if there’s nothing else, I
guess there isn’t anything that they could do for him at the hospital
that I can’t do here.”
“Good,” the Admiral said, seeming relieved.
“You let me know if you need anything at all for him, and
you’ll have it.” Jamieson
nodded and he sent the corpsman off for a stretcher team, then turned his
full attention back to the unconscious kid.
Ski and Stevens were standing a little behind Jamieson, looking on
worriedly. Harper had most
likely saved their lives and Sharkey was certain that neither of the
sailors wanted the engineer to suffer any more than he already had for it.
They were probably bruised and battered, but neither was going to
distract Jamieson at the moment. Patterson,
wrapped in a towel, moved by Ski and put a reassuring hand on his
friend’s shoulder. Ski gave him a tight lipped nod of acknowledgment, but there
was no question who his thoughts centered on at the moment.
“Admiral...” the Skipper started, plainly about to question why
Harper wasn’t being sped to the nearest hospital.
Sharkey was rather curious about that himself.
“Captain, my office,” Nelson interrupted him tersely.
As Nelson and Crane left, Sharkey watched Harper being moved to a
stretcher. Jamieson and his men bustled the kid off to the Infirmary as
everyone watched on in silence.
“He’s gonna be all right,” Ski said as if trying to convince
himself of it. “Harper’s
tougher than he looks. He’ll
“Harper deserves a medal, that’s what,” Stevens declared
ardently. “None of those
other brain guys working up in the labs woulda put their necks on the line
for us, that’s for sure. Too
high and mighty to care what happens to us.
We test their toys and risk our lives for them to prove all their
science stuff and they never once say thanks or anything.
Harper’s not like them, though. He’s
like the Admiral. He’s
okay.” There was a general
murmur of agreement among the sailors present.
Sharkey grinned a little. Heaven
help Portman or his cronies if they started talking Harper down in front
of any of the crew now.
“All right, all right. Enough
gabbing. The Seaview isn’t gonna repair herself, you know. Get
back to work. Make sure that berthing is secure and clear up this mess,”
Sharkey ordered. “Kowalski,
Stevens, Patterson, any of you guys need patching up?”
“We’re fine, Chief,” Kowalski said, looking to the others for
agreement, which he readily got. “You just tell us if the Doc needs blood or anything like
that for Harper, okay?” Again,
every one of the sailor’s assembled echoed Ski’s sentiment, then they
all went back to what they’d been doing before the attack or began to
work out the logistics of clearing the dead creature.
Sharkey smiled a little again.
Harper might not get a medal, but he had sure gotten himself
approval from the crew. Sharkey
only hoped that Harper would be all right and be able to enjoy it.
If he and Doc Babin threw their party, Sharkey would go, if only to
show the kid a little appreciation for what he’d done.
Apparently, Harper had taken Sharkey’s words about the
Seaview’s crew looking out for each other to heart.
He might be staying back at the Institute when they shipped out,
but as far as Sharkey was concerned, Harper was one of them now.
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