Belonging

by

Michelle Pichette

 

Chapter 57

 

 

* * *

     “Dylan, Tyr just appeared in hanger deck three and he has an unidentified human female with him,” Andromeda broke into Dylan’s thoughts as he stared at the sensor logs.

     Dylan blinked, looking from the screen that had occupied so much of his time as late and looked in confusion to the small hologram that materialized on his desk.  “What? I thought he was in his cabin.”

     “Well, he’s on hanger deck three taking off a space suit at the moment and speaking in Earth Common to the human female with him.  I wasn’t aware that Tyr knew Earth Common,” Andromeda stated emotionlessly.

     “Yeah.  Me neither,” Dylan muttered, getting up and starting for hanger deck three.  What the hell was going on now?  He didn’t make it that far because he met Tyr and a small, human girl that was wearing what looked to be exercise clothes in the corridor.  “So, Tyr, who have we got here and when were you planning to tell me about her or where you went to or what the hell is going on?” Dylan asked, blocking their path, arms crossed over his chest.  The girl, a dark haired, dark eyed, tiny thing that looked to be in her late teens, looked up at Tyr and said something incomprehensible, probably speaking in Earth Common.  “Start with what our guest just said,” Dylan told Tyr, not a bit happy about any of this.

     “Our guest, Doctor Dominique Babin, just stated that going by Harper’s descriptions of you, she had expected you would be a much nicer person,” Tyr replied a bit smugly.

     “That is what she said, except that she called Harper by his first name, Seamus,” the Andromeda confirmed as Dylan let his arms drop and his face fell into a confused gape.  For her part, the girl looked up curiously, seeming to search for the source of the Andromeda’s voice.

     “She knows Harper?  Where did she come from?  Is Harper there?” Dylan asked, wondering why he was the last to know everything.

     “She is from Santa Barbara, California, Earth, Earth-year nineteen ninety six which would equate to somewhere around Commonwealth year seven thousand.  She is more recently from Barris’ vessel, where the submarine she serves on, the Seaview, is currently trapped.  Harper isn’t there.  He is at the Nelson Institute of Marine Research, where he is employed, not enslaved, as an engineer by none less than Admiral Harriman Nelson.  He isn’t being harmed, according to Doctor Babin,” Tyr answered at length.

     At this point, the girl said something to Tyr and he responded and indicated something down the corridor.  She nodded and scurried past Dylan up hall.  “Wait!” Dylan called after her, but she didn’t hesitate, probably because she didn’t understand him.  “Where’s she going?” Dylan asked Tyr, who was still grinning smugly.

     “To machine shop seven, where Harper apparently told her to go should she find herself in this exact predicament,” Tyr replied.

     “We can’t have strange girls wandering around the Andromeda!  What if she lied about Harper?  What if she’s the next thing that Barris decided to throw at us?” Dylan asked, then started off after her.

     “She’s not,” Tyr said, sounding amused, following after him.  “You don’t recognize her name, obviously.  I thought you were better educated than that.  Perhaps you would know her by her married name, Dominique Charles.”  That got Dylan to stop and spin in shock toward Tyr.  “Yes,” Tyr said with a laugh in his voice.  “I can see that you know that name.”

     “That’s Dominique Charles?!” Dylan asked in alarm.

     “In perhaps sixty years time, by the look of her, but yes, she will be Dominique Charles, the Earth’s first ambassador to the Commonwealth.  She is the person that first met with the Perseids while they were on a routine scouting mission and she was accompanying her then fiance, Doctor Roger Charles, on a test flight of one of his space vessels.  She organized the Perseid mentoring mission that thirty years later led to the Earth joining the Commonwealth.  Had it not been for her, the Earth might have become a Perseid protectorate or, even worse, been annexed by the Kalderans, who were also sniffing around the area at the time.  You can see why I thought it might not be a good idea to leave her in Barris’ hands,” Tyr replied, still looking incredibly smug about the matter.

     Dylan moaned in his head, scrubbing a hand down his face, wondering how things could possibly get any more complicated.  “And she knows Harper?” he asked, thinking that was at least a little bit of good news, since he couldn’t imagining the mother of Earth Intergalactic Diplomacy having anything to do with slavery.

     “More than knows him.  From what she’s told me, they’re engaged to be married,” Tyr said, this time actually laughing.

     “What?” Dylan asked in total incomprehension.  “He’s only been missing a few days!  How did Harper manage to get himself engaged to Dominique Charles of all people?”

     “Ah, not Dominique Charles,” Tyr corrected him.  “Not yet, in any case.  And Doctor Charles was her third husband, who she married when she was far older.  And according to Doctor Babin, she found Harper beaten and half drowned behind her house almost an Earth month ago, so we seem to have a discrepancy in the amount of time that’s passed between us and Harper.”

     Dylan shook his head, then started back toward machine shop seven.  “She looks like a child,” he muttered under his breath, wondering what Harper thought he was doing.

     “She is in her twenties and is a doctor,” Tyr said, then caught Dylan’s arm.  Dylan turned to him, beginning to wonder what was wrong now by the suddenly serious look on Tyr’s face.  “And we have more problems than Harper’s social entanglements.  Admiral Nelson is aboard the Seaview and I do not know how long the submersible can survive in Barris’ ship.”

     Dylan groaned aloud this time.  Admiral Harriman Nelson, founder of the Nelson Science Consortium, was in Barris’ hands.  “You were on Barris’ ship, then,” he said, thinking he had to find a solution to all this.

     “Yes, and it’s a lifeless hulk,” Tyr replied.

     “What?” Dylan asked in confusion.  It seemed like nothing made sense any more.

     “It is an airless hulk, with no working systems that I could see.  Perhaps Barris runs it with his powers, but the ship itself might as well be a cardboard cut out,” Tyr said.  “We can only assume that Barris is using his powers to protect the Seaview and those within, though why he took them is beyond me.  His altruism cannot be counted on to last, though.  We need to get the Seaview to a place of safety as quickly as possible.  You know how many important people and things came from Nelson and his submersible.  If we allow it to be destroyed...”

     “We won’t.  Just... How do we get an entire submarine off of Barris’ ship and into water?  This whole thing is insane!” Dylan exploded in frustration.

     “I know, but that changes nothing,” Tyr said calmly.  “And you should greet your newest guest.”  With that, he simply walked away.  Dylan watched helplessly after him for a moment, then squared his shoulders and hoped that the Andromeda wasn’t going to mind doing an awful lot of translating as he started walking.

     When Dylan reached machine shop seven, he didn’t see anyone there as first.  “Hello?” he said uncertainly, about to ask the Andromeda if the girl had gotten lost.  A head popped around from behind a rack of storage bins and the girl said something quickly before disappearing again.  “Uh, Andromeda, want to tell me what she said?” Dylan asked, feeling a little helpless at the moment.

     “She said that she’d be with you in a second,” the Andromeda translated.

     “Great,” Dylan muttered, brushing a hand back through his hair.  What in heaven’s name could Harper have told her to do that had her rushing down here, rummaging through things.  “Andromeda, ask her...” Dylan started.

     That was when the girl came from around the storage rack, chattering, holding something out for Dylan to see.  She put part into her ear and pressed another piece against her throat and, then chattering suddenly resolved into, “...so you ought to be able to understand me now.”  She looked at Dylan with an expectant smile, but he didn’t have the foggiest notion what to say.  “Does it work?  Seamus was pretty sure it would work,” she said.  This time, Dylan could make out a whisper of incomprehensible words preceding the ones he understood.

     His brow knit and he said, “A translator?  Harper made a translator?”

     The girl smiled prettily.  “It does work!  I understood you, so it must.  Oh, thank goodness!  Hello, Captain Hunt.  I’m Doctor Dominique Babin of the SSRN Seaview and it’s an unexpected pleasure meeting you,” she said holding a hand out to him.

     “Uh...” Dylan said, taking her hand and shaking it gingerly, thinking that the hits kept coming, “...yes... Doctor Babin... Uh... Welcome to the Andromeda Ascendant.  How did... When did Harper make a translator?”

     “There was an incident with a Perseid librarian when he went a little manic?  Apparently, Rommie put an idea in his head and this was as far as he got with it before everything got sucked back out of his brain and he didn’t know how to improve it beyond where he’d gotten.  Since it only works with the two languages he knew best, which are English and Galactic Common, he didn’t think anyone would ever have a use for it.  I’m kind of glad it worked out that way or I might be speaking Magog at you right now,” she replied, still smiling warmly, giving him a firm, friendly handshake before releasing his hand.  At least that explained that.  She seemed like nice girl, but how she wasn’t totally terrified at the moment was beyond Dylan.

     “You’re taking all of this awfully well.  Are you always this unflappable?” Dylan asked thinking she was coping better than he was.

     Doctor Babin laughed softly.  “Oh, life aboard the Seaview prepares one surprisingly well for this sort of thing.”

     “And Harper, he’s all right?” Dylan pressed, wanting to hear it from someone who had seen him personally.

     “He’s fine,” she assured him, gently resting a hand on his arm.  “He got a lung infection and scared all of us for a little while there, but when I left him, he was just fine.  Don’t worry.”

     Dylan looked into the girl’s pretty, compassionate face and felt surprisingly reassured.  Usually the women that Harper got involved with were anything but good news, but this time, that didn’t seem to be the case.  “And the Seaview, what’s happening there?” Dylan asked her.

     Frowning a little, she said, “I was in my lab when there was a funny sort of movement through the boat.  Then Captain Crane called for general quarters and I went out into the corridor to go to my assigned position, but I saw an alien like the one that Seamus had described had hurt him, and I hid.”  She gave him a sheepish look and shrugged.  “I’m under orders to do that, hide when there’s trouble.  Pretty pathetic, right?  Tyr found me not too long after that and brought me here.  I would imagine the aliens are in control of the Seaview.  Is there anything you can do to help them?  Is there anything I can do to help you, Captain Hunt?”

     Dylan felt a smile ease onto his face.  It had been a long time since anyone had called him captain and done it with any measure of actual respect.  “You can start by calling me Dylan,” he told her.  That got the pretty smile back on the girl’s face.  Dylan decided that he liked that smile and the girl it was attached to.  He found himself feeling good that this was the person that had found Harper when he’d been hurt, afraid, and alone.  He had every intention of telling her that, but then Technical Advisor Rollan stormed into the room, his assistant in tow as usual.

     “Captain Hunt, this really is too much!” Rollan blustered.

     Doctor Babin looked at him wide eyed and fell back a step.  Dylan moved to her side and gently took her by the arm.  “Believe it or not, he’s friendly,” Dylan whispered to her.

     “A... Perseid?” she asked softly, sounding a bit shaken.  Dylan nodded, reminding himself that Doctor Babin was from an Earth that had no contact with the rest of the Universe.  She was bearing up really well, but this all had to be new and very strange to her.  Harper had to have been telling her about more than Andromeda.  Dylan wasn’t entirely sure if that was a good thing or not.  “Okay.  Perseids are okay,” she said, the alarm falling from her features.

     Rollan, meanwhile, strode over to them and looked closely at Doctor Babin, who forced a friendly smile on to her face despite the invasion of her personal space.  “And who might this be?” Rollan asked, his nose inches from Doctor Babin’s.

     “Uh...”  Dylan didn’t know what to say about her at all.

     “Doctor Babin of the Nelson Science Consortium,” she said for herself, holding a hand up at chin level, plainly hoping to catch Rollan’s attention with it.

     A surprised expression formed itself on Rollan’s face and he actually took a step back.  “Oh!  The Nelson Science Consortium!  I see.  Yes.  Technical Advisor Rollan.  A pleasure to make your acquaintance, Doctor Babin,” the Perseid said, taking her fingers in his own and kissing the back of her hand rather than shaking it.  He looked her up and down appreciatively, Dylan rather doubting that he was thinking solely on the caliber of her mind at the moment.  Then he caught sight of the ring on her left hand, which Dylan assumed was an engagement ring from Harper, and released her other hand, looking a bit embarrassed.  He probably thought it was a wedding band.  It looked uncomfortably like a wedding band to Dylan.  Harper engaged, much less married!  It boggled the mind!  “You are here about the time/space folding device, Doctor Babin?” Rollan asked, glaring at Dylan.

     “No, Technical Advisor Rollan,” Doctor Babin said, favoring him with one of her pretty little smiles.  The reaction was rather amazing.  Rollan returned her smile, bowing a little, almost looking as though he were going to blush.  Was it because she was a pretty girl or because she had told him that she was a representative of an extremely prestigious science institute and was being polite?  Dylan had spoken to representatives of the Nelson Science Consortium in the past and to call them arrogant was putting mildly.  Dylan didn’t know what Rollan was thinking, but he watched in astonished silence.  He didn’t think Rollan had a mood outside of cranky or alarmed.  “My vessel is experiencing some difficulties and Captain Hunt is in the process of helping to resolve them.”

     “I see.  If there is any way that I or my assistant can aid you, please do not hesitate to ask,” he fawned.  “Surely your business for the Consortium is very important and should not be delayed longer than necessary.”

     “Thank you so much, Technical Advisor Rollan, but Captain Hunt has everything well in hand,” Doctor Babin told him.

     “Yes, well,” Rollan said, looking flustered that she had turned him down.  “If I can be of any service, please call on me immediately.”  That caught Dylan’s attention and plans started forming in his mind.

     “Of course.  If you’ll excuse us?” she asked, giving him an apologetic smile.

     “Yes, yes.  Don’t let us keep you,” Rollan said, moving from between her and the door.  Doctor Babin gave him another soft smile and took Dylan’s arm, letting him lead her from the room as the Perseids tittered excitedly behind them.

     Once they were out of the machine shop and the door had shut behind them, Doctor Babin put a hand to her chest and let out a long, trembling breath as Dylan stopped.  “How did I just pull that off?” she asked rhetorically, looking the exact opposite of the composed individual that had just charmed Rollan as she leaned against the nearest wall. 

     “The important thing is can you do it again?” Dylan asked back, his plan now fully formed and it counted on her doing just that.

     “What?!!” Doctor Babin exclaimed, looking at him in disbelief.

     Dylan laid a hand on her shoulder.  “Hear me out,” he told her.  “I don’t know how to get the Seaview away from Barris safely, but knowing Admiral Nelson’s reputation, he might have some ideas.  I can do what Tyr did.  I can go over to Barris’ ship and get him and bring him here, but not with Technical Advisor Rollan dogging my heels.  Once Admiral Nelson is here, we’ll liberate the Seaview and start figuring out how to get all of you home.  I just need Rollan gone.”

     “The whole ‘maybe’ factor of your entire plan being pretty high aside, why don’t you just tell Rollan to go?” Doctor Babin replied.

     “I have, repeatedly, but he won’t leave.  In fact, he keeps threatening to bring more Perseids here to ‘help.’  That would be a total disaster, but I can’t risk insulting him by just throwing him out.  The Perseids might pull out of the new Commonwealth and we need everyone we can get.  You could do it, though.  I saw how he was responding to you just now.  If you asked him to the right way, he’d leave happily,” Dylan told her, giving her an encouraging smile.

     Doctor Babin stared at him in disbelief.  “You want me to convince an alien to leave your ship when you can’t get him to do it yourself?  I’m from a primitive, planet locked culture and I’m talking to you through an experimental translator.  You want to use me for intergalactic diplomacy?  Are you insane?!!”

     “Obviously, but you can do this.  I need you to do this.  I haven’t been able to risk taking any sort of action with Barris, the leader of the aliens that are holding the Seaview, because I didn’t know where Harper was, then Rollan was here.  According to you, Harper’s safe.  If I can just get rid of Rollan, I can stop all this tiptoeing around,” Dylan replied, giving her shoulder a gentle squeeze.

     Doctor Babin searched his eyes, looking small and helpless and totally overwhelmed for a few seconds, then her eyes and face hardened and she said, “You’re gonna owe me, Hunt.  You are going to owe me huge.  You’re saving the Seaview and get us all home after I do this.”  She wasn’t asking him, she was telling him.

     “Absolutely,” Dylan agreed nodding, not having a clue as to how he was going to manage any of it.

     She looked away from him to the machine shop and the fierce expression on her face faltered and she let out a little sound of distress, then she straightened up, brushed her t-shirt flat, squared her shoulders and marched to the machine shop door.  As it opened, she was all smiles and oozed charm and was saying, “Technical Advisor Rollan, could I speak with you?”

     With that, the machine shop doors closed behind her, leaving Dylan alone in the corridor.  After the first few moments, panic hit him.  What had he just done?  He’d just fobbed his troubles off on a little girl, a little girl that was going to be the key to humans having a glorious future in the universe.  He’d known her all of five minutes, then threw her to the Perseids.  What had he been thinking?  It was too late to do anything about it now, he told himself.  He could only wait it out.  And he did wait for what seemed like an eternity.

     When the door finally opened again, Rollan stepped through it, letting out a tittering laugh and patting Doctor Babin’s hand where it rested on his elbow.  “And we will have to talk about the cephalopod cultivation you were mentioning.  Our reef farmers on Boltan would benefit greatly from your brilliance if the Consortium can spare you,” he was telling her, not even glancing at Dylan as they strolled past him.

     “Oh, Technical Advisor Rollan, you flatter me,” she said coyly, leaning in closer for a moment, squeezing his arm affectionately.  It was like they were dear, old friends, Dylan thought in amazement. 

     “Not at all.  Not a bit,” Rollan said, patting her hand again.  He looked to Dylan and his face soured again.  “Captain Hunt, I will be leaving for the time being.  Doctor Babin’s mission must not be delayed a moment and I have told her to contact me immediately if you give her the same difficulties you’ve been giving me, so that I can step in on her behalf,” he warned Dylan sternly.

     “Uh, yes... Yes, of course,” Dylan said, then looked to Doctor Babin in surprise.  She frowned at him and mouthed the words, ‘You owe me huge,’ then smiled at Rollan when he turned back to her.

     “Now, you must come to Sinti to see me and soon, so that we can discuss some more of your fascinating work,” Rollan told Doctor Babin, squiring her up the corridor, his assistant scurrying in his wake.

     “Much as I would adore to see Sinti, my current project has me almost overwhelmingly busy,” Doctor Babin told him, sounding appropriately disappointed.  “This forced break will be almost catastrophic.  It could be years before I find a breaking point.”

     “Dear, dear,” Rollan tutted.  “I do know how work can consume one.  Still, you will keep my offer in mind.  I think that the Directors would...”  And with that they moved out of Dylan’s earshot.  Dylan watched after them with amazement.  This was the sort of woman that saw marriage material in Harper?  He shook his head, unable to get that to make any sort of sense.

     “Andromeda, Technical Advisor Rollan will be leaving.  Prep his ship and let me know when he’s boarding,” Dylan ordered.

     “Yes, Dylan,” she replied, sounding amused for some reason.  Great, now his ship was laughing at him.  That was all he needed.

     “Where is Tyr now?” Dylan asked.

     “His quarters.”

     Dylan nodded and headed in that direction.  Doctor Babin, a person from Earth of three thousand years ago, was seeing the Perseids off his ship.  Beka, Trance and Rommie were on their way back with a shipload of aliens that weren’t the Lechak Bon, despite what the Allsystems Library said.  He had to pull off an impossible rescue and get rid of an incredibly powerful, dead alien that was cruising the galaxy in a fake ship.  Nothing unusual, he told himself, then wondered when he had jumped permanently into crazy land.  He had to get rid of Barris and return to some modicum of sanity soon.  He just had to.

     Buzzing Tyr’s door, Dylan entered his quarters to find him pulling on a clean shirt, obviously having showered.  “I need to know the layout of that ship and where the Seaview is,” Dylan said, then explained what had happened with the Perseids and what he had promised Doctor Babin.

     “While rescuing the Admiral is a good plan, perhaps I should go instead of you,” Tyr said.  “After all, I’ve been through the vessel before.”

     Dylan nodded, saying, “I know, but you’re a lot more intimidating than I am.  He might not come with you.  I need to get him here quickly and safely and make some sort of plan to get the Seaview out of Barris’ hands with him.  I’d like you to stay here and guard Doctor Babin.  She seems to trust you well enough and you managed to stand toe to toe against Barris before, so you can fend him off if he showed up to take her or harm her.”

     “That’s another thing,” Tyr said.  “The Seaview has been invaded by Barris’ forces.  Should you meet him or his soldiers, what will you do?”

      “The best I can,” Dylan sighed, wishing he had a better answer.  Tyr frowned but went to get a flexi and went over what he know of Barris’ ship and the Seaview.

     Just as they were finishing, the Andromeda announced, “Rollan is about to leave, Dylan.”

     “Good,” Dylan said, taking the flexi.

     He and Tyr went down to where Rollan’s ship was berthed and found the Perseid kissing Doctor Babin’s hand again, telling her good-bye as his assistant watched on from the side.  Funny, Dylan thought, he didn’t think he ever heard the assistant’s name.  “We will be in touch, Captain Hunt,” Rollan told him as he looked to Dylan.  “We still want to speak to Chief Engineer Harper as soon as he is returned.”

     “Yes, Technical Advisor Rollan,” Dylan agreed.  “Please have a pleasant flight.”

     Rollan merely huffed at him, then smiled warmly at Doctor Babin, kissing her hand again and saying, “I look forward to our meeting again, Doctor Babin.  Don’t forgot my invitation, will you, my dear.”

     She returned the smile.  “That would be impossible.  Do be careful, Technical Advisor Rollan,” she replied.  His smile brightened at her expressed concern and he finally released Doctor Babin’s hand.  He sniffed in Dylan’s direction, then disappeared into the hanger deck and on to his ship, his assistant trailing after as usual.  Doctor Babin slumped a bit once the hatch was closing, looking suddenly tired.  “Seamus didn’t do the Perseids justice in his stories,” she sighed.

     “You’re a miracle worker,” Dylan praised her, patting her gently on the back as the vessel lifted off and flew away from the Andromeda.  Dylan felt like one of the huge weights resting on his shoulders had been lifted away.  “Can you do that again about a hundred more times, only this time you’d talking people into joining the Commonwealth for me?”

     Doctor Babin looked up at him with a vexed expression.  “You only just met me.  Why do you hate me so much?”

     “She didn’t even bite you like she bit me,” Tyr pointed out, flashing Doctor Babin a predatory look like he was considering returning the gesture.  Doctor Babin glared back, plainly not intimidated.  Dylan decided that he didn’t want to know the details.  He still had a lot to do.

     “Well, if she does it again, have her disinfect the wound.  It’ll be a novelty, having an actual doctor instead of Trance just playing at being one,” Dylan said, thinking it was almost reassuring having a real doctor aboard for a change.

     “She’s a primitive,” Tyr sniffed, looking affronted.

     “And a Marine Biologist,” Doctor Babin added, not seeming put out by the ‘primitive’ crack.

     “What?” Dylan asked, a little confused by the whole thing.

     “I’m a doctor of marine biology, not a medical doctor,” she replied, looking amused.  “I patched Seamus up when he washed up in my backyard, but I don’t think you want me preforming surgery on anyone.  So, you’re going to rescue the Admiral now?  I was thinking you might want to rescue Ro Simmons, the Chief Engineer, too.  She might be able to help with anything technical since you’re short an engineer at the moment.”

     “I’ll bring two spare suits and see what I can do,” Dylan said, nodding to the suggestion.  He still didn’t know if he could pull off Tyr’s stunt a second time.

     “And you should take this or you won’t be able to talk to anyone over there,” Doctor Babin said, then took the disk off her throat and popped the plug out of her ear.  She handed the devices toward Dylan, who looked them over frowning, then put them on.  “Can you still understand me?” she asked.  He could hear her speaking in Earth Common in one ear, but the device in his other amplified her voice a bit as it translated her words into Galactic Common.  It was a little distracting, like two people talking at him at once, but he could understand her just fine.

     “Yes, I can,” he said, nodding.  Doctor Babin smiled a little, still looking tired.  This had been a long day for her, Dylan realized, and he hadn’t made it any easier with his stunt with Rollan.  “I’m going to go shortly.  Tyr, could you see to it that Doctor Babin gets something to eat and maybe some rest in one of our guest suites?”

     Tyr let out a long suffering sigh, then turned to go, saying, “Come along, little girl.  Let’s see if there are any cookies for you.”

     “Oh, goody!  Can we play hopscotch too, Mister Anasazi?” Doctor Babin said sarcastically as she followed him off.  Dylan grinned in spite of himself.  Now that sounded like someone that would get along with Harper.  The thought stung a little.  If he successfully rescued the Seaview and got rid of Barris, didn’t that leave the Seaview’s crew stuck here and Harper stuck in the past?  Even if he could find a way to get the Seaview home, where did that leave Harper and Doctor Babin?  He had to work this all out somehow and get everyone where they should be.

* * *

     Nelson dodged soldiers for a while, but reaching the Sickbay seemed almost impossible.  He would get a few doors up a corridor and have to fall back or hide for a while to avoid being recaptured himself.  There were just too many aliens on the Seaview, Nelson thought with a scowl.  He had to get to Sickbay, though.  Harper was badly hurt and needed proper medical care.  Weak as he was from his recent illness, being severely injured the way he had been could make him relapse or a new infection might set in.  It had been hours since Barris had tortured the boy, so fortunately he wasn’t as frail as the alien seemed to think he was or he would be dead already.  Nelson was glad that Harper was resilient, but the boy’s fortitude had been put to the test entirely too much lately.

     Finally, after dodging yet another group of aliens and still not having gotten very far, Nelson decided to go back up into the vents and get to Sickbay that way.  Carefully moving through the vents all that way, Nelson arrived to find Jamieson and his corpsmen all sitting under the watchful eyes of two of the aliens.  Nelson felt like cursing.  Harper needed Jamieson!  Swallowing down his anger over the situation, Nelson made his way back along the vents, thinking that he had to try building one of Harper’s ray weapons so that he could liberate Jamieson and perhaps the rest of the Seaview.  Going to his lab, though, was another disappointment.  There was an alien standing guard there as well.  Nelson did curse in his head this time.  He was being thwarted at every turn and he was getting sick of it.

     Finally deciding that he would see if lasers would work on Barris, Nelson went to see if he could find an arms locker that wasn’t guarded.  It wasn’t until he reached the missile room that he found one.  No one was there, so Nelson carefully climbed down from the vent into the room.  He was halfway to the arms locker there when the escape hatch light went on.  Someone or something was coming aboard the Seaview!  Barris appeared from nowhere, so Nelson doubted that the aliens were using the hatch, but it was possible.  Had someone else managed to remain free of Barris and gone for help?  Or had someone gotten a distress call out?  Nelson knew he didn’t have time to get to the arms locker before the pressure would equalize, so he fell back by one of the missile silos to see what would emerge.

     To his surprise, a being in a space suit carrying a fair sized bag stepped from the hatch.  Nelson fell back as the being scanned the room, not wanting to be seen as yet.  After a few moments, Nelson chanced taking a look out from his hiding place.  The being was removing the space suit’s helmet and to Nelson’s surprise, a human head appeared from beneath.  The man looked around again once his helmet was off, his face concerned, not frightened.  Nelson was certain that he had never seen this man before, so he fell back into hiding again.  He would wait to see if the man moved out of the missile room into the Seaview, he decided.  He certainly didn’t need any more trouble than he currently had.

     It was rather surprising when he suddenly found himself facing the man, who held a force lance similar to the one that Harper had given him pointed at his head.  He was a large man and his blue eye’s narrowed for a moment, taking Nelson in and then he seemed to relax a little, saying, “Admiral Nelson?”  His voice was odd, like there was an echo, only not exactly.

     Nelson, however, came to a conclusion of his own.  “Captain Hunt,” he said, relieved that Harper had described his former commanding officer as well as he had.

     The man lowered his weapon, relaxing the rest of the way.  “Dylan, please.  It’s a pleasure, sir,” he said, extending a hand.  Nelson took it without reservation.

     “Seamus has been telling me about you, but I’m curious, how do you know me?” Nelson asked.

     Hunt smiled.  “My Weapons Officer... liberated Doctor Babin from you submarine earlier.  After she explained your situation, I had my ship show me some pictures of you from our achieves.  We need to get the Seaview out of enemy hands, sir, and I’d like to ask your help in doing that as quickly as possible.”

     “Dominica?  Is she all right?” Nelson asked, suddenly worried about her.  He’d thought her to be hiding somewhere in the Seaview.  How had Hunt’s man gotten her?  And Anasazi was a Nietzschean.  The poor girl was probably terrified.  Then Nelson caught himself.  No, this was Dominica he was thinking about.  She, of all people, would be fine.

     “She’s safe aboard my ship, sir,” Hunt replied, but the look of concern returned for some reason.  “That’s what I need you to be.  Once we’re there, we can see about making some sort of plan for freeing the Seaview.  I’ve brought a spare suit.  We should leave immediately.”

     Nelson frowned, not sure he wanted to ask what he was about to ask.  This was not something he had planned for.  “I hope you have two spares or I won’t be going with you.  We have a medical emergency to deal with.  Barris... you are aware of Barris?”  Hunt nodded, frowning.  Yes, he knew Barris.  “He’s been here, demanding that I allow him to join my crew.  When I refused, he tried to force my hand.  He turned some Magog loose at the Seaview’s base of operations.  There were two deaths.  If not for Seamus Harper, it would have been far worse.  Barris didn’t like having his plans thwarted, though, so he brought Seamus here to the Seaview and made his displeasure known.  We escaped where we were being held, but Seamus is badly hurt and needs medical attention.”

     Hunt’s jaw tightened and the concern on his face intensified and became tinged with anger, probably over what he was thinking Barris had done to Harper.  “I have two suits.  Where is Harper?”

     “Nearby, but I got here through the air vents.  I don’t want to have to bring Harper here that way if it can be avoided, so we might have a fight on our hands,” Nelson warned him.

     Hunt nodded, then started to strip out of his space suit, saying, “After the last few days, the idea of blasting Barris or some of his crew isn’t going to be a problem for me.”  Nelson went to the arms locker and got himself a laser.  They hid the space suits, then Nelson checked the outside corridor.  It was empty.  Apparently, Barris didn’t view this cabin as a vital area.  Nelson was glad for that misjudgement and he lead the way back towards the storage room.  “What did Barris do to him this time?” Hunt asked softly, sounding worried.  He did know about the beating Harper had suffered through on the Andromeda then.

     Nelson frowned, growing angry at the thought of what Harper had been made to suffer.  “After beating him, Barris dislocated his arm at the shoulder, then broke it.”

     Hunt grimaced as if he had shared in Harper’s pain.  “That doesn’t sound good.”

     “I set the arm as best I could, but he’s in pain and needs real medical care,” Nelson whispered back, then indicated for Hunt to wait a moment and eased to nearest corner.  The corridor beyond was empty and they continued on.  As they moved haltingly forward, Nelson began to worry.  What if Barris’ men had found Harper?  He moved forward as quickly as he felt he safely could.   Fortunately, none of Barris’ soldiers seemed to be in this end of the Seaview.

     It wasn’t far to the store room, for which Nelson was grateful.  He brought Hunt directly to where Harper lay, still unconscious in the far corner.  Hunt crouched next to Harper and gently cupped the boy’s still pale, haggard face and murmured, “I’m so sorry, Harper.  Hang in there a little longer.”  It was impossible not to see how much Hunt cared about the young man, how much it was hurting him to see the boy so stricken.

     Harper stirred slightly at Hunt’s soft words and he opened his eyes a bit.  He looked up at Hunt, his eyes slid shut, then he forced them open again.  “Dylan?” he whispered out, seeming disorientated.  That wasn’t surprising.  The boy had been through a lot today.  This was probably the last thing he expected.

     Hunt nodded, giving the boy a gentle smile.  “Yes, Harper.  Don’t talk.  Let’s get you to the Andromeda and have that arm fixed up.  I’m sorry.  This might hurt.”  Hunt carefully lifted the boy into his arms.

     Harper let out a small sigh of pain, wincing his eyes shut, then seemed to shake it off.  He opened his eyes a little, looked up into Hunt’s and smiled sleepily, murmuring, “Got a girlfriend, Dylan...”  He sounded spent, despite being unconscious for a while.  He also looked more than a little feverous.

     “I’ve met her.  She’s very nice.  For once, I approve of your taste,” Hunt said as he carried Harper back out of the room and in the direction of the missile room.

     “She even loves me... Says so and everything... ” Harper whispered with a little smile, then his head slumped back against Hunt’s shoulder as he passed out cold.

     Hunt shifted his grip on the unconscious boy so that Harper was cradled comfortably against his shoulder and chest.  “Poor kid.  He’s had to take way too much lately,” Hunt said grimly.

     “He’s a brave young man.  He crawled through the air vents, injured as he was, because he wanted to build weapons for my crew to use against Barris and his soldiers,” Nelson told him.  He was so proud of Harper and how courageous he had been through all his ordeals.

     Hunt looked over at him briefly.  “Harper found something that worked against Barris and his crew?”

     Nelson’s brow knit.  “Your force lance should work against them.”

     “It knocks them back, but that’s about all it does, even on a full charge,” Hunt said.

     “Odd.  Seamus made a lance similar to yours for me.  The charge it fired destroyed one of Barris’ soldiers before I was overwhelmed and they took it from me,” Nelson told him.

     “Harper is good,” Hunt said, almost chuckling.  “Good work, Harper,’ he whispered to the unconscious boy, then again turned briefly to Admiral, saying, “Once he’s had a chance to get seen to, I’ll have him make some more of whatever he made for you and we’ll retake your ship.”

     “Boat,” Nelson corrected him.  He also was not about to have Harper revived and ordered to work in the condition he was in.  He couldn’t imagine what Hunt was thinking, even suggesting such a thing.  Couldn’t he see how badly hurt the boy was?  Of course, Hunt probably didn’t know about Harper’s recent lung infection and that the boy was no where near back to normal from that, his current injuries aside.  Nelson knew it, though, and Harper was going to get time to heal and rest and regain his strength.  “And we’re going to let Seamus be cared for properly.  He told me what components he needed to build some more of the weapons.  He just never got a chance to do it.  I think I can work up a close approximation.  We’ll have him check over my work from his bed in your Sickbay.”

     Hunt looked down at the unconscious boy in his arms, the worry on his face intensifying for a moment as he nodded to what he’d just been told.  After seeing that look, Nelson regretted his feelings of a moment ago, because it was obvious that Hunt cared about what had happened to Harper.  Hunt was a career military man and was probably used to maintaining military detachment from his crew.  It had to be difficult for him to have a civilian crew now, especially someone as totally undisciplined as Harper.  The Admiral knew that Seamus idolized Hunt, but he doubted that they had the same relationship that he had with the boy, much as Seamus would have liked that.

     “Of course, sir.  I’ll show you to our main engineering as soon as we get Harper settled on the Medical Deck, if that would be acceptable,” Hunt said as he started walking a little faster.

     “That will be fine, Captain Hunt,” Nelson said.

     “Dylan’s fine, really,” Hunt told him.  They got to the missile room without incident and Hunt settled Harper carefully on the floor near the escape hatch, then went to get the space suits.  “Come on, Harper.  Let’s get you suited up,” Hunt said as he began to carefully dress the boy.  Harper moaned, then said something weakly in what was probably the language they used on the Andromeda, not opening his eyes.  Hunt smiled.  “Much as I’m sure that Rommie would appreciate having her slipstream coils realigned, you don’t need to do that right now, or in five minutes.   You just need to let me stuff you into this suit while you lay still, all right?”  Harper murmured something else, but then seemed to drift back into unconsciousness.  Hunt glanced at his force lance and frowned.  “He’s running a low grade fever,” he said, worry tingeing the words.

     “He’s barely recovered from a serious lung infection.  Being hurt this way could have let that set back in,” Nelson said grimly, gently stroking the boy’s head.  Harper opened his eyes a little and looked up at him, but didn’t seem to be focusing on his face.  “You hang on for just a little longer, son,” Nelson told him.  “We’ll have you to some medical care soon.”  Harper blinked slowly at him and said something that Nelson couldn’t understand, then closed his eyes and fell still and silent again.  Nelson realized that Hunt had stopped what he was doing and was staring at him with an unreadable expression on his face.  “What did the boy say?” Nelson asked.

     Hunt seemed to shake himself back to the task at hand and continued his efforts to get Harper into his spacesuit.  “He said that he was all right, not to worry,” he translated, but he was frowning about something.  Nelson didn’t know if he was keeping something Harper had said to himself or if something else was bothering him, but now was not the time to dwell on any of that.  He got himself suited up and soon they were in the escape hatch and preparing to go.  “I’d like to have my hands free in case we meet resistance,” Hunt said as they waited for the pressure to equalize.  “Can you handle Harper all right by yourself?”

     “I’ll manage,” Nelson replied, thinking that in the weightlessness of space that he should be able to carry Harper without too much difficulty.  After Hunt opened the exterior hatch and moved out of the Seaview, Nelson carefully handed the unconscious engineer up to him.  Moving in the weightlessness of space was much like swimming, so Nelson adjusted quickly.  With Harper’s limp arm over his shoulders, Nelson held onto the boy, trying to be careful of his injured arm, which was still bound to his chest.  They made their way through a lifeless ship out to open space.  It was there that Nelson got his first glimpse of the Andromeda.  Harper’s impassioned descriptions hadn’t done her justice.

     “Hang onto this and Harper,” Hunt instructed passing a looped strap to Nelson.  It was connected to Hunt’s utility pack.  Nelson got a firm grip on it.  “I’ll have us aboard the Andromeda soon,” Hunt told him, then fired off a jet from a pack on his back, speeding them toward their destination.  “Andromeda, we’re coming in.  Prep the Medical Deck.  We have Harper with us and he’s hurt.”

     “Harper’s with you?” a woman’s voice asked.  Nelson realized that it was no woman, it was Hunt’s ship speaking.  “But Doctor Babin said that he wasn’t aboard the Seaview.”

     “I know, but Barris has the nasty habit of changing where Harper is at any given moment,” Hunt replied.  “We’ll have to see if we can’t keep that from happening in future.  Can you tell Tyr and Doctor Babin to meet us in medical?”

     “Of course, Dylan.  It’s good to have you back, Harper,” the ship replied.

     “He’s unconscious, Andromeda, and running a low fever.  His arm is broken and was dislocated and he’s been clawed by some Magog.  We’ll want to look for possible infection as cause for the fever,” Hunt said.

     “The automatic systems are ready, Dylan, and Tyr has some experience dealing with battle damage.  We’ll take care of him,” the Andromeda responded, her voice growing softer, almost as though she were attempting to be reassuring.  Nelson remembered Harper talking fondly of the ship on several occasions and had said that he’d actually courted the vessel but had been rejected because the ship was in love with Hunt.  Nelson had wondered at the time how one could fall in love with a piece of machinery or how it could have feelings for anyone or anything, but listening to her voice now, he began to wonder if perhaps such things were possible. 

     “Your ship has an interesting voice,” Nelson commented.

     “Thank you, Admiral,” the Andromeda replied.  “I’m honored by your visit.  Please let me know if I can do anything to make your stay with us more comfortable.”

     “Get my sub out of enemy hands,” Nelson muttered.

     “As soon as possible, sir,” the Andromeda responded, seeming eager to start blasting Barris.  Nelson just hoped they could find a way of doing that without endangering the Seaview.

     Before very long, they reached the Andromeda and Hunt had Harper out of his suit and was rushing him to the Andromeda’s medical deck.  All the jostling around roused Harper again, but he stayed quiet, looking distressed about something.  It wasn’t until Hunt entered the Medical Deck and Harper saw Doctor Babin that he looked relieved.  “Honey, I had a really bad day at the office,” he said weakly as Hunt settled him on a bed.

     “What happened?  Who hurt you?  You were at the Institute.  How did you get here?” she asked worriedly, stroking his face.  A large, dark skinned man with long braids stood by her, running some sort of instrument over Harper.  Nelson noted the bone blades, knowing this was a Nietzschean, so this had to be Tyr Anasazi.

     “I’m just glad you’re here.  When I woke up seeing Dylan, I thought maybe I dreamed you,” Harper murmured, fumbling his hand toward hers.  She took it and kissed his fingers gently, holding tightly on to him.  Harper looked to Anasazi.  “Don’t get any ideas about my girlfriend, Anasleezy.”

     “Little man, you are in no condition to be issuing warnings to anyone at the moment.  Small woodland creatures could best you in your current state,” Anasazi replied, looking at the screen of the scanner with a frown.  It rather surprised Nelson that the Nietzschean was speaking English without a translator.  He had worked out Hunt was using one.

     “Can you put him back together, Tyr, or should we sedate him and wait for Trance?  She and Beka will be back in another day,” Hunt said.

     “It’s mostly simple injuries and exhaustion.  Nanobots will repair the damage in his shoulder and arm.  The infection in the chest wound should be easily dealt with.  Sleep will take care of the rest,” Anasazi said, still looking over the scanner.  He looked back down at Harper, displeasure still marking his features.  “At least he managed not to get himself infested again.  How did you find Magog three thousand years in the past, boy?”

     “They found me.  Look, make with the healing aids, okay?  I need to help rescue some friends,” Harper groused at him weakly.  Not commenting, Anasazi turned from him, then returned with an injector, emptying it into his neck.  Harper sighed, the pain tightening his face easing away.  Nelson relaxed a little as he watched it fade.  Harper looked spent and feverous, but at least he wasn’t suffering anymore.   “Oh, that’s nice,” Harper sighed out with a little smile.  “Just pain meds or some antibiotics too?”

     “Both and a light sedative.  Get some sleep, boy,” Anasazi said, beginning to undo one of the makeshift bandages holding Harper’s arm in place.

     “Hey!  I didn’t say I wanted...” Harper started to slur out, then fell limp as the sedative took effect.  Doctor Babin stroked his face, still looking concerned.

     “Ah, yes.  The blessed silence I’ve been enjoying so much as of late,” Anasazi muttered as he continued to carefully remove the bindings.  Doctor Babin poked him with an annoyed look, but he ignored her.

     “You take good care of him,” Nelson ordered him, not liking his tone either.

     Anasazi didn’t look up from his work, but said, “Much as he seems to be trying to get himself killed, I should be able to stave off his efforts this time, Admiral.  Dylan, did you find what I described to you aboard Barris’ ship?”

     Nelson felt his brow wrinkle.  “That wreck the Seaview is trapped in is Barris’ ship?”

     “Yes,” Hunt replied, then looked to Tyr.  “And you were right, Tyr.  It looked like it was incomplete, like an empty shell.  I think all of Barris’ soldiers are aboard the Seaview right now, but we need to find a way to get them free of that hulk.”

     “It seems I sedated the little Professor too quickly.  He might have had ideas,” Tyr replied.

     “You can talk to him about it when he wakes up.  You and Doctor Babin stay with him.  If Barris or any of his crew show up, feel free to tear them into as many pieces as you feel like,” Hunt said, sounding angry.  Nelson glanced at him and he saw Hunt glaring at the injuries that Anasazi was laying bare.  It seemed the Captain wanted some payback for the abuse Barris had been heaping on Harper.

     Pausing briefly and looking at Harper’s bruised, pale face, something cold and frightening formed in Anasazi’s eyes.  “It would be my pleasure,” he said, his tone still neutral, and returned to what he had been doing.  This man was a cold blooded killer, Nelson realized, suddenly growing alarmed.  Doctor Babin had gently set down Harper’s hand and had started to help Anasazi remove the crude bandages on Harper.  The huge man glanced at her and his face softened a bit, and he commented, “And I’m sure that if I have any troubles, the little girl will tear them apart with her teeth.”

     “Just be glad I don’t take it into my head to use them on you again,” Doctor Babin said levelly, then shot Anasazi a glare.  She had bitten the man?  When had that happened?  Why had it?

     Anasazi didn’t look angry about the matter, though.  In fact, he let out a short, amused snort, saying, “I doubt that Harper would approve of you giving me such intimate attentions, little girl.”

     Doctor Babin let out a scoffing snort of her own.  “Intimate attentions.  You wish!”  Anasazi gave her a fleeting, indulgent smile and the two of them continued their work.  Nelson didn’t know what had gone on between the two of them, but it was apparent that Doctor Babin was at ease around the man.  Harper had called him a friend as well.  Nelson still didn’t trust this Nietzschean, but he supposed his two young charges were safe enough with him for the time being.

     Hunt took the banter in his stride.  “The Admiral thinks he might be able to build us a weapon that can take out Barris and his crew.  We’ll be in main engineering,” he said.  Nelson took in the scene before him one last time.  Harper was being cared for and he and Doctor Babin were as safe as they could be with Anasazi standing guard over them.  He followed Hunt out of the room without further word, hoping that the weapon he would construct would do as well as Harper’s had.  Someone needed to put Barris down like the rabid dog he was before anyone else got hurt.

* * *

 

 

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