Michelle Pichette


Chapter 54



* * *

     Nelson was sitting in his cabin going over some daily reports when the Seaview shuddered.  He was on his feet when General Quarters sounded.  He barely got around his desk when Barris appeared before him.  “Good day, Admiral,” Barris said with his usual toothy grin.  “I think it’s past time that we finally came to an agreement, don’t you?”

     That Barris had showed up again right after General Quarters had been sounded didn’t bode well at all.  “What have you done, Barris?” Nelson demanded.

     “As yet, only asked that you allow us to join you,” Barris replied.  “It was a perfectly reasonable request, but you turn me away again and again.  You think you don’t need me, but you’re wrong.  You can’t possibly protect everyone you care about at all times without our aid.  Think of all the noncombatants that work for you.  And with you.”

     Nelson didn’t like where Barris’ words were leading him.  “If you...” he started, then a second alien that looked like Barris appeared next to him.

     “We cannot find the girl,” the alien said.  Nelson felt a momentary surge of panic, but crushed it down immediately.  He remembered Harper’s gift and had it out almost as the thought touched his mind.  He aimed the tube at the new arrival and a bright light shot from the lance.  The alien didn’t even get a chance to turn.  He was enveloped by a blueish light and then there was nothing but black ash where he’d stood.  Nelson turned the weapon on Barris, but someone grabbed him from behind and pulled the lance from his hand.

     “A new toy?” Barris asked, taking the lance from the other alien as Nelson pulled his wrist from the soldier’s grip.  “A present from your new pet, no doubt,” Barris commented as he turned the lance over once in his hand, then crushed it into a small metal ball, looking displeased as he dropped it to the floor.  “Keep searching for the girl.  She is on this vessel.  Find her,” he ordered his minion.  The other alien came to attention and vanished as silently as he had appeared.  “You could summon Doctor Babin here to us and save everyone unpleasantness,” Barris told Nelson.

     “I have no intention of giving you anything you want, Barris,” Nelson replied.  “I most certainly am not calling an innocent young woman here for you to threaten.”

     Barris’ smile became dark and frightening again.  “All right then.  We will find her, but I think we should have entertainment while we wait.  Your employees at the Institute, how well are they protected?”  Nelson didn’t respond, curling his fists in impotent rage.  “The last creature that confronted them, it was too large to really move about the buildings very well.  I think we need something else to prove my point.  Let me think.  What would be appropriate?”

     “Barris...” Nelson growled.

     “Oh, I know.  Something from the future.  Your new pet, it talked about some very interesting things that inhabited the area in the years to come.  Some of those I think.  Something truly fearful,” Barris said, malevolence oozing from his words and all over his face.

     Nelson knew exactly what Barris would bring down on the Institute.  “You can’t do that!” Nelson declared.  “People will die!  We won’t be able to contain them!”

     “Your choice, Nelson.  We could simply join your crew and keep any such threat from your employees and your world,” Barris said.  Finally Nelson had the answer to exactly how evil Barris was, much as he wished he didn’t.

     Frowning and firming his resolve, Nelson asked, “Then how many would die?”

     “It wouldn’t be your people.  Isn’t that all that matters?” Barris asked in return.

     “I don’t make deals with the devil,” the Admiral said, much as it pained him to do so.

     “Very well.  Let’s watch shall we?” Barris said, then waved a hand and shimmering patch appeared in front of them.  It showed the Institute’s security office and two men there monitoring the buildings, drinking coffee, harming no one.  “We’ll see how well your guards do first, shall we?”

     “Barris, don’t,” Nelson breathed out, knowing what was coming.  Then things from the world of nightmares materialized in the small security office.  Guns were emptied into the creatures, but that didn’t stop them.  Blood and carnage filled the view area that Barris had made and Nelson watched two men die.

     “Not so well.  You see, Admiral, you do need us,” Barris had the nerve to laugh.

     “I’ll kill you, Barris.  I will kill you,” Nelson swore to him, wishing he still had Harper’s lance.  He couldn’t agree to Barris’ demands.  He couldn’t trade one life for another.  Maybe Harper had made more weapons, he thought worriedly as he watched the creatures move out of the security office, more appearing as they did until a good number of the monsters were swarming into the Institute.  Too many, Nelson thought.  Even if someone did think to bring some of the more powerful weapons in the Institute to bear, there were simply too many.  Harper was a bit on the paranoid side, though, and he tended to be forward thinking.  He'd made more lances, Nelson told himself.  He had to have.  Please, son, don’t let me down, he prayed, unable to look away.

* * *

     Tyr was not the sort of person that easily admitted to being wrong about something, but he was beginning to think he might have been wrong about his current course of action.  It had taken time to blind the Andromeda’s sensors to him and to convince the ship’s systems that he was in his quarters with privacy protocols enabled.  It would keep Hunt from finding out what he was up to until his plan had been brought to a successful conclusion.  Tyr had put on a space suit, packed a second, smaller one on his back, and had casually pulled himself off the ship, past the force screens on one of the hanger decks.  That had been simple.  The screens were made to keep air in, not really anything else.  Once outside the ship, Tyr had simply walked along the Andromeda’s hull until he could see Barris’ ship in the distance, then he pushed himself off with all his might and began floating in that direction.  With only his life support unit working, passive sensors should ignore him.  He fully intended to float to Barris’ ship, enter it, find Harper, then leave.  Simple.

     The only problem was that the moment he made contact with the ship’s hull, the universe blinked and Tyr found himself no longer in space, but in a large body of water.  Growling softly to himself, Tyr decided that he was going to rip off alien heads until he had Harper by the scruff of the neck and the two of them were once again on the Andromeda.  Once they were there, Tyr would make it his mission in life, even above reestablishing his pride, to kill Barris and make sure he stayed dead.

     Easing himself slowly around Barris’ vessel, Tyr found an open airlock.  The really strange thing was that it was open all the way into the ship, which was now flooded.  Tyr shrugged off the oddness of it.  If Barris and his crew were dead, they didn’t need to breathe, so they were soggy, but likely unharmed.  Harper was another matter, Tyr thought grimly.  If the boy was here on Barris’ vessel, he had best be unharmed or Tyr would find new and interesting ways of testing Barris’ pain thresholds.

     Quickly but carefully, Tyr searched the interior of Barris’ ship.  It was empty, not just of crew but of equipment.  There were corridors and rooms, but they were all barren, no sign of biological or mechanical life anywhere.  There was no furniture nor personal belongings in any of the living quarters, nor tools in the work areas.  It was as if the ship was not complete and no one served on it.  Though this was not what Tyr had expected, he kept going.  There was a huge mystery here and he would find the answer to it. 

     He had been searching for a while when he came upon a hold.  In it floated a submersible craft.  There were lights and sounds coming from this craft, sounds of alarm.  At first, Tyr wondered if he had been detected, but he quickly came to be certain that the claxons he was hearing had nothing to do with him.  “The enemy of my enemy...” he thought as he swam toward the vessel.  Of course, he held to no such philosophy, but he would see who or what was aboard this vessel.

     Finding an airlock was simplicity itself.  There were no sort of security measures on it and Tyr was soon in a cabin on the submersible.  The scanners in his helmet showed that air was breathable so Tyr removed the helmet and looked around himself.  It was a fair sized room with missiles and torpedoes in it.  Tyr nodded in approval.  Good, these were not peaceful beings.  Maybe they would kill a few of Barris’ men.  There had been alarm bells ringing out throughout the vessel, but they were silent now.  It was odd that there was no one in this room, Tyr thought with a frown.  Where were the men typically stationed here?  He would investigate.  After taking off his spacesuit and carefully stowing it and the spare out of easy sight and making sure he had a weapon of his own at the ready, Tyr scanned the room, thinking that walking up a corridor would probably garner him unwanted attention.  He spied what looked to be a rather large vent and went to it.  It was large enough to accommodate him.  Just what he needed.

     After hauling himself up and closing the vent, Tyr crawled forward, careful to be as quiet as possible.  He heard some sounds of a large group of people and looked out that vent.  There, in what looked to be an eating area, three of Barris’ men stood guard over a group of human men, none of whom looked pleased to be where they were.  Tyr moved on.  Three to one odds were not to his taste, especially when he could not be certain that the humans in the room would aid him.  He would see if he could find better odds before considering engaging Barris’ troops.  He had found two more groups of captives, three or more soldiers guarding every room.  Tyr frowned again over the matter.  This was looking like an exercise in futility.

     That was when he rounded a corner and found himself face to face with a small, young, human female.  To her credit, she didn’t make a sound, simply backpedaling quickly away from him.  That was unacceptable.  She likely had answers to a few of his questions.  He reached out quickly and grabbed her by the scruff of the neck thinking to drag her into an empty room.  Voices would carry too easily here in the ducts.  It was a reasonable plan, but then the girl did something unexpected.  She moved her head quickly to one side and bit the inside of his arm, hard!  Shocked, Tyr eased his grip for an instant, which was long enough for the girl to squirm free and start to scurry away from him.  Tyr simply grabbed her again and dragged her quickly to him, saying at a whisper, “Don’t do that again.”

     That was when she went at his eyes with her sharp little fingernails, grunting back in Earth Common, “Let me go.”

     Grabbing both her wrists and restraining her, Tyr loomed over the tiny creature.  He was well over twice her size, but she looked like she was getting ready to bite him again.  “Stop that,” he whispered, this time in Earth Common, glad that his parents had insisted that he learn it despite the fact that it was now a slave language.  Nietzscheans and the philosophies they followed had all originated on Earth and Tyr’s parents wanted him to study these works in as close to their original form as could be procured.  Of course, the girl didn’t look like she wanted to talk, but she looked so tiny and fragile that Tyr half thought that hitting her to knock her out might do permanent damage.  “I’m not one of the invaders.  If you keep thrashing, you’ll get us both captured,” Tyr made one attempt at being reasonable.

     With a glare, the girl gave one final tug against his grip on her wrists and then went still.  She looked down at his arms, at his bone blades, then her brow wrinkled and she looked up and met his eyes.  “Tyr?  Tyr Anasazi?” she asked, sounding confused and perhaps a bit hopeful. 

     Of course, Tyr was simply confused.  “Yes,” he said carefully, wondering how she could possibly know who he was.

     The girl relaxed and smiled, whispering, “Well, now Seamus is going to be really upset that the Admiral made him stay back that the Institute.”

     “Seamus... Harper,” Tyr responded, barely keeping himself from rolling his eyes.  That at least explained how the girl knew who he was.  Harper had been spreading his fame, apparently.  “Come,” Tyr ordered and quickly led the way back to the airlock room.  Once Tyr was on the floor, he plucked the girl out of the vent and plopped her in front of her, holding her firmly by one collarbone and asked, “Where is Harper?”

     “Back at the Institute,” she replied, squirming a bit under the pressure of his hand.  As he eased his grip, Tyr took in the emblem on the breast of her t-shirt, which informed him that she was involved with the Nelson Institute, which was the precursor to the Nelson Science Consortium.  That told Tyr that he was on Earth in the past.  Not that the information was particularly helpful, but at least he knew more than he had.  “He told me all about you and Dylan and Beka and the Andromeda.  Look, how did you get here?  Who are those aliens?  They look like what Seamus told me the alien that shanghaied him looked like.  What’s going on?”

     “That is a very good question,” Tyr muttered with a frown.  First things first, Tyr told himself.  He should see about rescuing Harper, if possible.  “Is the boy being harmed where he is?  Is his master being cruel to him?” he demanded.

     The girl actually laughed.  “Master?  What are you talking about?  Earth isn’t under Nietzschean domination.  There are no ‘masters,’ at least not in America.  Seamus just works at the Institute in the Engineering department.”

     Harper seemed to be all right, which didn’t fit at all with what Barris had been saying.  It wasn’t as though Barris could be trusted, but it was best to be sure of the truth of matters.  “If you’re lying to me, girl...” Tyr started to threaten.

     “Doctor Dominique Babin, thank you very much,” she corrected him sternly, shooting him back a furious glare of her own. 

     That got Tyr to release her, not because of the tone or the look, but because of her name.  She was young, maybe in her early twenties, Tyr estimated by what she had just said, even though she looked younger.  Her age didn’t change anything if she was who he thought she was.  In fact, it made matters infinitely worse.  This was so far away from good that Tyr doubted that good would be visible even to his genetically improved vision.  “Dominique Babin, daughter of Andre and Giselle?” he asked, disquiet tingeing the words as he hoped she would tell he was mistaken.

     Doctor Babin shot him another confused look.  “Yes,” she said slowly.  “And how would you know who my parents are?”

     Tyr felt like screaming in frustration.  Good had just disappeared off the map!  He couldn’t very well tell the girl who she was going to be in the future, but he couldn’t let her come to any harm without jeopardizing the lives of unimaginable numbers of people.  What was Barris playing at?  “We’re leaving,” he declared, grabbing her by one wrist and intending to bring her to the airlock and get her off of this vessel.  Any risk of her being harmed was unacceptable.

     “Wait!  The aliens here are going to hurt people.  We have to do something!” the girl protested, but kept her voice at a whisper.  Tyr turned on her and glared down at her with one of his fiercest looks, the one that usually made Harper cringe away and his heart beat speed out of control.  The girl was smaller than Harper so she would likely be even more easily intimidated.

     We will do nothing.  You will come with me to a place of safety,” Tyr growled at her as he waited to scent her fear.  It didn’t happen, which was both confusing and frustrating.

     “No.  These are my friends,” she told him in no uncertain terms.

     “You are not a warrior.  You couldn’t even best me and those things out there are disturbingly close to being my equal.  I can fight these... creatures, but not if I have to be concerned over your welfare while I do it.  Now, come with me,” Tyr ordered her.

     The girl scowled at him, her eyes glittering in calculation as she plainly thought things through.  “This has something to do with you knowing who my parents are,” she said.  “How come you know who my parents are and Seamus didn’t?”

     “The little professor doesn’t know nearly as much as he thinks he does,” Tyr shot back.  “Now, come!”

     “You’ll help my friends if I do?” she still challenged him.  Tyr let out another growl, this one half of frustration, but the girl seemed unimpressed and waited impassively for his answer to her question.  Things were so much easier when people were afraid of him.  Why wasn’t this little girl frightened of him?  Plainly he was letting himself go.

     “I will do my best,” Tyr replied.  The girl’s fierce expression softened and she relented, letting him pull her to where he’d left his things.  Just as he reached for them, there was a noticeable movement and Tyr looked involuntarily up.  They had shifted again.  He could only hope it was back to where the Andromeda was.  He had a lot to talk over with Dylan.

     “What was that?” Doctor Babin asked quietly, finally looking at least a bit apprehensive.  “Are we moving?”

     “Don’t concern yourself,” Tyr told her, quickly dressing her in the space spacesuit.  “Stay close,” he ordered her over the internal communicator.  She nodded and he put her into the airlock and got in himself.  When he opened the pressure equalizer, water didn’t fill the chamber, air leaked out.  When the external lock indicated it could be opened, they moved out into a vacuum.  Tyr didn’t know whether that was good or not and he swung the small girl onto his back.  “Hold on,” he told her and, thankfully, she did without argument.  Tyr swiftly moved through Barris’ ship back to where he had come in.  As they moved out the open lock into space, he heard the girl gasp.  Good, he thought with a private smile.  At least something impressed her.  He was also pleased to see the Andromeda where he had hoped it would be and launched himself in that direction.

     “Is... is that the Andromeda?” the girl asked, sounding more than a little awestruck.

     “Yes,” Tyr replied, touching the controls to the pack on his back and feeling the small thruster push them a little more quickly to their destination.  This was no time for stealth or delay.

     “We’re in space,” the girl said, then let out a laugh that sounded half frightened and half elated.  “Wow!  We’re really in space!”

     Tyr smiled and chuckled softly in spite of himself at her childlike reaction to their situation.  “Yes.  Now tell me about how you know Harper,” Tyr replied.  As they moved toward the Andromeda, Doctor Babin told him about Harper’s appearance in Earth’s past and what had happened since.  Her story made things truly complicated.

* * *



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