Michelle Pichette


Chapter 50



* * *

     Lee was standing in the Seaview’s Control Room going through final repair reports, happy to see the channel waters through the Herculite windows in the boat’s bow again.  This down time had been nothing but trouble, but he was firmly convinced that everything was wonderful now that the Seaview was seaworthy again.  He had been thinking that right up to the moment that Dom arrived before him, looking annoyed, arms crossed over her chest and said, “So, say it.”

     Lee was utterly baffled.  “Say what?” he asked, not knowing what he’d done now.  He’d been pleasant and supportive last night despite his misgivings about the speed at which Dom and Harper’s relationship was progressing.  He had even tried to make amends with Harper over the last couple of days, not that he’d gotten anything more than glares and silence from the kid so far.  Chip, who had somehow managed to make friends with Harper, had said to give it time, that Harper wouldn’t stay angry forever, but Lee had his doubts.  He had thought that Dom, at least, had forgiven him, especially after she had pretty much forced Harper to accept his apology a couple of days ago.  It seems he’d been wrong about that as well.

     “Oh, come on.  Ever since the day you found out about Seamus you’ve been telling me how dangerous he is and how I don’t know anything about him and that you don’t trust him.  Now we’re engaged and you have nothing at all to say about it?” Dom asked, giving him a more than suspicious look.

     Lee thought about half a dozen comments about the matter, but he forced them all down and said, “I’m not marrying him, you are.  If you aren’t at all worried about anything, I guess that’s all that matters.”

     “So, you’re not going to go on about him being from the future and how all the time travelers that you’ve dealt with in the past were evil?  It is absolutely not his doing that he’s here, so if you want to be upset with anyone, it should be with the alien that beat Seamus within an inch of his life and stranded him here with us,” Dom told him firmly.

     “What?!!” was all Lee could say.  Harper was from the future?  Some alien creature had been responsible for the beating he’d gotten right before he washed up in Dom’s backyard and for transporting Harper here from whenever he’d come from?

     “I obviously know about everything, so you can quit it with the evasive warnings,” Dom said, dropping her arms and looking exasperated.  “I’ve known for weeks and Seamus told the Admiral everything ages ago.  I also know that your history with this sort of thing hasn’t been at all good, but it’s different this time.  Seamus is just a person that got caught up in something beyond his control.  He doesn’t know how to get back to his time and he seems pretty sure that Captain Hunt has no way of coming after him.  You’re not going to snarl at him any more, are you?  It bad enough that he got torn away from his old life and had to make a new one here.”

     “Captain Hunt?  What?” Lee asked helplessly.  Dom seemed to think he knew everything she was telling him already, though he didn’t know where she’d gotten that idea from.

     “Captain Hunt of the Andromeda Ascendant.  Seamus said that he served on the ship and who his commanding officer was.  I know that Ro told you all that.  After all, you were going on about how you couldn’t find anything in current ship registries about the Andromeda, dropping more hints about how the ship couldn’t be from now,” Dom said, rolling her eyes.

     “I didn’t know about any of this!” Lee exclaimed.  Okay, he had known about the Andromeda Ascendant and Hunt, but not the finer details!

     Dom shot him another suspicious look.  “Are you sure?  You certainly seemed to be acting like you knew more about Seamus than I did somehow.  You’re this hot shot spy person, after all.  I thought you figured it all out on your own.  The Admiral doesn’t want anyone to know, which is probably for the best.  We’d probably have no end of trouble and kidnapping attempts if anyone outside the Institute actually found out the truth about Seamus.  I’m sure you can understand his concern.”

     “Well, yes, but...” Lee started, thinking about the amazing little things Harper had already made and how the last thing anyone needed was for the young man to be taken by hostile forces and made to construct something that was dangerous.

     “So, we’re agreed then.  All the future stuff, we should forget about it and concentrate on the here and now, especially considering how most of the things that happened to Seamus in the future were awfully dismal.  I mean, being born into the slave end of a slave society on a broken Earth where his family was murdered in front of him and his health got trashed and he got all those scars is pretty depressing stuff.  It’s was lucky that he escaped and made a life for himself in space and all, but even there, bad stuff kept happening to him.  I try not to talk to Seamus about it too much myself even though he feels safe telling me about everything.  I think it was actually sort of a good thing that this happened to him, all things considered, and that he’s doing a pretty good job adjusting, don’t you?” Dom said as if people suddenly appeared from the future every day and simply took up living in the present as if nothing had happened.

     “I...” Lee started, not entirely sure what he thought about any of this.  He’d just been hit with too much too quickly.

     “The Admiral’s probably going to kill me for telling you, but I thought you knew all this.  Like I said, you kept acting like you did.  Oh, well, it’s not like you can’t keep a secret.  Don’t talk to anyone about it, okay?  Especially not Ro.  She’d freak.  Thanks, Lee.  See ya,” Dom said, then turned from him and disappearing off into the Seaview.

     Lee thought about calling her back, but he knew how Dom was about this sort of thing.  She’d just told him, without telling him of course, that she thought he ought to let the whole thing go and not worry about anything, that she and the Admiral had a handle on things.  Her ‘slip’ probably had been all planned out too, knowing her.  She looked all sweet and innocent, but that angelic face hid an ingenious, devious mind.  Lee knew that it was a good thing that Dom was a genuinely nice person because she could read people seemingly without effort and manipulated them like a seasoned pro.  He couldn’t be absolutely sure that was what had been going on a moment ago.  It all could have been real.  Lee didn't know for sure either way, which only showed how good Dom was.

     Lee frowned, thinking about what he’d just learned.  He hated it when the Admiral kept important things like this from him.  Of course, everything that the Admiral had told him about Harper and how protective Nelson was being of the kid now made more sense.  Lee felt a little angry about being kept out of the loop and thought about confronting the Admiral about Harper and his origins, but it wouldn’t really serve any sort of useful purpose.  Harper was here and he was staying here because, apparently, even he didn’t have any sort of say in the matter.  Nelson liked the kid and Dom was marrying him and they both had known the truth about the weirdness surrounding Harper, probably since the beginning.  Lee rubbed his nose, groaning over the whole thing, thinking about all the insanity he’d been through because of this ridiculous situation.  He stood there for a good half an hour doing that, then decided that he’d had enough.  He left his reports sitting on the drafting table and went up toward the Institute to share his displeasure with the Admiral, no longer caring that it wouldn’t change anything.

     However, when he was forced to slow down for a few moments to take the elevator up, Lee found himself thinking carefully about what both Nelson and Dom had told him about Harper and what the kid’s life had been before he’d wound up here.  The scars Lee had seen seemed to back up what had been said about him and the more Lee thought about everything, the less certain he was that he had planned to confront to the right person about his newly acquired knowledge when he’d been stewing on the Seaview.  Making a decision as the elevator doors opened, Lee marched with new found determination, knowing exactly what he wanted to do.

     Lee was almost to Engineering when he came up behind the person that had been making his life so frustrating and confusing.  Harper was carrying a box that looked heavy, which seemed confirmed when Harper paused to awkwardly set down his burden, all but dropping it when he did.  Harper leaned against the nearest wall to take a few deep breaths, looking sweaty and tired.  Lee looked at the kid, really looked at him, thinking about everything he now knew about him and was even more sure that the decision he’d made a few moments ago was the right one.  He strode forward purposefully and picked up the box that sat in the hall in front of Harper.  It weighed a ton!

     “C’mon, Captain Pain.  What’d I do now?  I need that stuff,” Harper whined, sounding a little breathless.  Of course, he’d had oxygen tubes up his nose a couple of days ago and Lee had seen Jamieson looking unhappy about the fact that Harper didn’t have them now.  The kid probably hadn’t slept much, considering that they were all up late last night, and Harper would have been confined to the Infirmary if Jamieson knew about the lack of rest and that Harper was carrying around things that were probably far too heavy for him even when he was at his best.

     “Where do you need it?” Lee asked him.

     “What?” Harper asked, looking confused and like he didn’t want to deal with Lee at the moment.  Tough, Lee thought, not having missed the taunting twist on his name but deciding not to comment on it for the moment.

     “Where were you carrying this?  You shouldn’t have been carrying it at all.  Or were you trying to wind up back in the Infirmary?” Lee questioned him, giving Harper his best, no nonsense, Captain’s glares.  Harper didn’t look cowed, but his brow knit, as though he didn’t understand what Lee wanted.  “This is heavy.  Where do you want it?”

     “In my lab.  Where else?  What do you care?” Harper asked.

     “I care because Dom is a friend of mine and you worried her sick when you were in the Infirmary last time.  And don’t be such a snarky ass when someone is helping you out,” Lee reprimanded him, then started at a quick walk toward where Harper’s lab was.

     “Oh, you’re gonna teach me manners, huh?  Better men than you have tried,” Harper sniped at him as he followed along.

     “I don’t doubt it,” Lee said.  They reached Harper’s lab and Lee made sure that the hall was empty before his set down his burden and turned to Harper, stepping close, basically backing him against the nearest wall.  Pitching his voice so that Harper could hear him and no one else easily could, he said, “I know where you’re from and I can understand how being beaten on a regular basis by someone that thinks they own you could make the best of people sarcastic and wary.  I was wrong with how I treated you before and I meant it when I apologized.  If you honestly give me a second chance, you might just find that I’m the person that you were willing trust so easily in the first place.”

     Harper’s face registered shock and confusion and fear and half a dozen other things before for it hardened and his lips went flat.  “I guess we’ll see about that,” he said, not giving Lee any more than that.  Lee couldn’t really blame him.  Harper had probably been betrayed quite a bit by the trusting nature that Admiral Nelson said he had.  Besides, it wasn’t as if he’d given Harper any reason to like or trust him as yet.  Lee rather hoped that might change now that Harper knew that he knew the truth of things and hadn’t taken any sort of negative action against him.

     Lee nodded, stepping back to give Harper some more personal space and saying in a more normal voice, “I guess we will.”  With that, he turned and started to go.

     “Hey, Crane,” Harper called after him after he’d gone half dozen steps and Lee half turned back to him.  “Bet you don’t think we have so much in common now, huh?” the little engineer said, his tone daring Lee to start something.  Imagine having to fight for everything, Lee remembered the Admiral saying.  In this instance, Lee was pretty sure that Harper was trying to fight for some respect rather than pity.

     “Maybe not upbringing, but we’ll have to compare scars some time,” Lee replied, thinking that having pain and suffering in common was at least something.

     Harper’s face softened suddenly, almost alarmingly so.  “I got ya beat there.  Hands down, no contest,” he said with a self satisfied smirk, not seeming upset about the marks his hard childhood had left on him.  Lee wondered how the kid did that, turning something that should have been horrific into a joke.  Lee could respect that much about Harper, that he hadn’t let his past twist him into a bitter, frightened person.

     “Need help bringing that into the lab?” Lee asked, nodding toward the box.

     “Nah.  I can shove it in the door on my own,” Harper replied with an unconcerned shrug.

     “Just don’t hurt yourself doing it,” Lee told him sternly.

     Harper gave him a glare and snorted derisively, some of the guardedness returning to his face.  “You always this bossy?” he asked.

     “Comes with the Captains Bars,” Lee replied with a grin.

     “Yeah, Dylan suffered from terminal bossiness too,” Harper said with a head shake, seeming to let it go as he turned to the lab door.  He had his security badge out and was obviously planning to go into the room.  Lee thought about helping him with the door, but he didn’t want overdo it when things seemed to be at least not be hostile between the two of them for once.

     “See you around, Harper,” Lee said then turned and started back toward the Seaview.

     “Not if I see you first,” Harper said, his teasing tone making Lee grin at the predictability of it.  In fact, now that Lee wasn’t trying to figure Harper out anymore, the kid didn’t really bother him all that much.  Okay, Harper was from the future and he plainly was very bright, but he was like someone’s annoying kid brother who did magic tricks to try to get people to like him, not like some megalomaniac scientist bent on world domination.  Lee decided he could live with that.  He supposed he’d worked on the Seaview too long and that facing aliens and other odd menaces was tainting his view of the world.  Smiling to himself, Lee shook his head.  If that was the price he paid for commanding the Seaview, he didn’t mind at all.

* * *

     The final few days before the Seaview set sail seemed to pass almost at the snap of his fingers.  Harper suddenly found himself wishing he were leaving with the sub, not wanting to be away from Dom or the Admiral.  In quiet moments when he was working with Mister Fletcher or talking with the Admiral or cuddling with Dom, he knew is was a silly desire.  The Seaview would be back in no time and he had plenty to do while the sub was gone.  Dom and the Admiral would be fine, as they always had been in the past.  Still, when Dom dropped him off at the Institute each night, Harper started trembling as she drove away and he found himself in his lab working on things that would help to ensure that she and the Admiral would return to him safe and sound rather than sleeping.  He told himself it wasn’t necessary, but that dark voice whispering terrible things that could happen in the back of his head refused to go silent.  He tried not to listen to what it was saying and told himself that he was being silly, worrying the way he was.

     That didn’t stop him from going by the Admiral’s office the day before the Seaview was scheduled to leave with presents in his pockets.  Katy let Harper into the Admiral’s office with her usual smile, but Harper didn’t miss the little photo strip of four pictures of her and Ben Englander sitting in a new frame on her desk.  He smiled about that.  He was glad Katy was happy.  The Admiral gave him a reserved smile as he came into the office.  Harper fervently wished that some day he could be as effortlessly cool as the Admiral was.  That maybe some of it would rub off when he spent time with the older man was Harper’s only hope in that regard, but Harper clung tightly to that hope none the less.

     “Hey, Boss,” Harper said as he always did, cringing at how pathetic his attempt to hide his awe sounded.  That the Admiral bore his sad tries to appear at ease with good grace helped, but Harper didn’t know if he would stop looking at Nelson with any less hero worship coloring his perceptions.  “Tomorrow’s the big day, huh?” Harper asked as he came to stand in front of the Admiral’s desk.

     “Yes,” the Admiral said leaning forward with the cigarette he was smoking to snuff it out, despite the fact that it was less than half gone.  Harper forced himself not to frown.  The Admiral was trying to protect him, his messed up lungs in particular, and he hated to think that he was putting people out on a regular basis.  “Not getting nervous, are you?” Nelson asked, snapping Harper out of that line of thought.

     “What would I have to be nervous about?  I’m just staying here with half a dozen babysitters watching over me,” Harper said, trying to sound as relaxed as his words were.  Nelson gave him a knowing smile and raised an eyebrow.  “Okay, I’m scared shitless that something bad is going to happen to the two people I love the most in the world while I’m not there to do anything about it.  Happy?” Harper sighed out.  He was so transparent that he might as well be made of glass.

     “You really have nothing to be concerned about, Seamus,” Nelson assured him, still looking calm.  “We’re just going to do some routine survey work and some other scientific research, not anything worrisome.”

     “Yeah, like nothing’s ever happened before when you were doing pretty much the same thing,” Harper grumbled under his breath.  “Look, I made you something so I wouldn’t worry so much.  It’s not a big deal, but you’ll, like, carry it with you all the time just so I won’t be freaking out the whole time you’re gone, right?”

     Harper pulled a slim, seven inch tube out of the side pockets of cargo pants, holding it up for Nelson to see.  “It’s not as good as the ones from the Andromeda, but it’s a force lance.”  Nelson leaned forward and looked intently as Harper pressed a button on the side of the tube.  It extended in either direction of his hand and Harper twirled it almost absently, saying, “It’s pretty tough.  You should be able to hit about anything without it bending on you.  That’s if something nasty gets up close and personal with you.  The ends will give off a nice, lethal shock if you hit the button here.”  Harper pushed the button and electricity crackled dangerously along the ends of the lance.  He let go of the button and continued.  “If something dangerous is at a distance, drop it there.  You push this,” he forced himself to stop moving and show Nelson another button, “and it won’t be around long enough to get up close.”

     Nelson smiled indulgently.  “What?  No demonstration?”

     “I didn’t think you wanted any smoking piles of debris here in your office.  Don’t point it at anything you’re gonna to miss,” Harper said, retracting the lance and handing it to Nelson.  “I’m thinking later I can maybe add scanners and stuff like on a real force lance, but for now this gets the job I want done very nicely done.”

     “And I’d set this to stun or something less than ‘smoking debris’ how exactly?” Nelson asked, turning the retracted lance over carefully in his hands.

     “Anything that threatens you doesn’t get ‘stun’ as an option,” Harper said, getting angry and upset at the thought of something trying to hurt the Admiral.

     “Seamus,” Nelson said a bit reproachfully, but Harper was not going to compromise in this instance nor feel bad about refusing to.

     “I thought about making one for Dom, but she wouldn’t have taken it and I guess she’s got a submarine full of guys looking out for her, so I shouldn’t worry about her,” he said to avoid further debate about the lance.  Despite what he’d just said, Harper was worried about Dom getting hurt and he wouldn’t stop worrying until she was safely back in his arms.  How was he going to do this on a regular basis?  He’d have a nervous breakdown for sure before the year was out at this rate.

     “She’ll be fine.  She always is,” Nelson assured him.

     Harper nodded, then reached into another pocket.  “Oh, and I fixed this.  Well, fixed it as well as I could,” he said, handing the device posing as a pocket watch over to the Admiral.  “I gave it a quick test and it seemed okay, but I wouldn’t go visiting the time of the dinosaurs or anything with it.  I’d treat it as a something to use as a last resort sort of thing.”

     “The Pem device is repaired?” Nelson asked, sounding surprised as he took the time traveling device from him, then shot him a wary look.  “And how, exactly, did you test it?”

     “Well,” Harper started sheepishly, “you know the crazy guy that whooped at the back of the room when you accepted your Nobel Prize, but disappeared?”

     Nelson smiled and chuckled.  “I should have known.”

     “I thought people would do more than polite clapping!” Harper tried to defend himself.

     “So, when will you be going to the Andromeda to tell your friends what’s happened and say goodbye?” Nelson asked, carefully turning the Pem device in his hands.

     Harper shook his head.  “I can’t.  I don’t know how to.  I mean, even if I figured out how many years into the future to go, the Andromeda is out in space who knows where.  I don’t think that teleporting into a vacuum is good for your health.”

     “Couldn’t you go forward in time on Earth and contact them from there?” Nelson asked seeming intent on him going for some reason.

     “Oh, yeah, I’m sure the Drago-Kazov’s would be just pleased as punch to let me borrow their communications equipment for a few minutes,” Harper said sarcastically.  “They’d probably insist I stay for tea until the Andromeda arrived.  Or a nice, friendly torture session.  Whichever.  Or I could wind up in the middle of a wonderful, welcoming group of Magog.  Been there, done that, hated the t-shirt.  I think I’ll pass, thanks.”

     “You should tell them, Seamus,” Nelson said firmly, not letting him off the hook that easy.

     Harper sighed and plopped down in a chair.  “It’s not that simple.  I meant it when I said I didn’t know how far forward in time to go.  And you’ve worked the device yourself.  On Earth, it’s easy to figure out the math for moving somewhere else.  In space... There’s just a lot of space to move around in.  And nothing is sitting still out there.  I could try to shoot for going to Sinti or Infinity Atoll or somewhere else safe, but if I do the calculations wrong, the planet could be on the other side of their sun from where I show up.  And what if the strain from traveling that far from now breaks the device?  What if I can’t get back home again?”

     That upset him more than anything else.  The barest possibility of not being able to come back to Dom was simply not worth the risk, no matter how much he would have liked to tell Beka and Dylan that he was all right and not to worry about him.  “No,” Harper said, shaking his head adamantly.  “It’s not worth it.  We’ll think of some other way of getting a message to them.  If it takes a while, it’s okay.  I mean, we’re sending it to the future.  Probably they’ll get it like two seconds after they realized I was gone, so it’s not like they’d have to a chance to even miss me.”

     Nelson seemed to think things over for a moment, then said, “Since moving in time when we are on a particular planet doesn’t seem to be a problem, then it seems the solution is to go to Sinti or Infinity Atoll and move forward in time.”

     “Yeah, but like I said about calculating the movement of bodies through space and even if I had a really good telescope...” Harper started.

     “No, no.  In a ship, Seamus, not with the Pem device,” Nelson interrupted him.

     “Err.  Minor problem.  Intergalactic space travel isn’t exactly available.  I mean, you’re counting on me to get you out of Earth’s gravity safely and reliably.  Sinti is an awfully long way away from here,” Harper said.

     “You’re telling me that you couldn’t make a slipstream drive or something of that nature, then,” Nelson said, with a little smile, his tone growing challenging.  Harper knew he was being dared and usually would rise to the challenge, but not this time.

     “I can, but I don’t,” he replied.

     “What?” Nelson asked, sounding a little confused.

     “I mean Doctor Roger Charles is the Earth scientist that broke into the slipstream and opened up intergalactic space travel for our planet,” Harper told him.  “I’m pretty sure he worked for the Nelson Science Consortium, but I don’t remember what year it happened.  I know that it happened, though, and I don’t think I should mess with it going down that way.  The last time I tried to buck history, I ended up blowing up a whole lot of people.  Even if it was a bunch of murderous Nietzschean military thugs, I really don’t want to do that again.”  Nelson began to look like he was not going to let the topic go, so Harper decided that he better change the subject.  “I need your help with something else, though.”

     “And what might that be?” Nelson said, putting the Pem device in his pocket.  Harper was glad to have it out of sight and the subject of him using it to go back to the future dropped.  He wanted his future to be here at the Institute and he certainly wasn’t going to do anything to jeopardize that happening.  He leaned forward and told the Admiral what was troubling him and Nelson smiled warmly at him, then stood up.  “Oh, I think we can easily take care of that little problem,” the Admiral told him as he put on his jacket and came around his desk to where Harper was rising from his own chair.

     “I’ll pay you back.  I know you’ve only gotten about a week of work out of me, but...” Harper started.

     “Don’t concern yourself, Seamus.  I told you, if you need anything, you should come to me,” Nelson reminded him as they turned to leave his office together.

     “Have I told you that you’re the best boss ever?” Harper asked with a relieved sigh.  Beka would have given him a lot of grief over what he’d just asked and then probably turned him down, supposedly for his own good.

     “You might have mentioned something along those lines,” Nelson chuckled.

     “Well, it’s true,” Harper said sincerely, silently thanking the Divine for his life here with the Admiral and Dom.  He would try his hardest to be worthy of them from here on out.  Almost absently, he rubbed the Taijitu symbol tattooed on his upper arm.  That had been his life, yin and yang, two opposing forces always balancing each other out.  Anything good always balanced with something bad.  It worried him now, more and more, because there had been so much good lately.  Usually, if either side was going to have the upper hand, it was the darker side of things.  Maybe his present, the happiness that he’d found, was the balance for his terrible childhood.  He’d been almost desperately trying to convince himself of that but he still worried what might be looming just out of sight.  He glanced at the Admiral, who gave him another warm smile, and tried to shrug off those unfounded concerns, but they still tickled at the back of his mind, unwilling to go away.

* * *



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