Belonging

by

Michelle Pichette

 

Chapter 58

 

 

* * *

     Lee stood by the periscope island, feeling impotent rage surge through him as he looked at the aliens standing guard over them.  They had been here for hours, waiting for something to happen, but the aliens didn’t do anything but stand still, looking menacing.  O’Brien had been edging slowly over to him, but everyone else was staying still after Lee had ordered them to.  It had taken him all the time that they’d been held this way, but apparently O’Brien’s perseverance knew no bounds.  When he finally arrived next to Lee, O’Brien said in a barely audible voice, “Do we just stand here until they decide to break us all apart like Edwards, sir?”

     Lee frowned at the question.  The aliens had taken Edwards away and he could only hope it was to the Sickbay.  “We’re not armed,” was all Lee said quietly in reply.

     “Think the Admiral is?”

     Lee had been thinking about that.  The aliens seemed to be waiting for something and one had come into the Control Room and plainly looking for something or someone.  Had the Admiral evaded capture?  Was he working to free them even now?  Lee hated not knowing the answer to all the questions rattling through his mind.  “If he is, we need to sit tight and wait for him to make his move.  We’ll act then.”

     “But we don’t know if he’s free, sir,” O’Brien said, looking over at their guards.  “We need to find out.  We need you out of here so that you can help the Admiral.”

     “I don’t want anyone else hurt,” Lee told O’Brien, knowing the younger officer was probably planning something rash.  “Or killed.”  He shuddered at how the aliens had stood over Edwards, looking at him blandly.  They didn’t gloat over hurting the sailor.  It was if his cries of pain as he’d huddled on the deck cradling his crushed hand were meaningless to them.  He didn’t think they would blink at killing one or all of them.

     “Yes, sir.  No one hurt or killed,” O’Brien said with a nod, then strode away from Lee straight at one of the aliens.  Lee restrained himself from making a grab at the back of the other man’s shirt, his heart rising into his throat as O’Brien went to stand before the closer of their guards.  “The men need to be given water and food,” O’Brien declared firmly.  Lee was horrified as the guard began to lift a hand, but he took a step back toward the nose, praying that O’Brien hadn’t just committed suicide.

     The alien pointed toward where O’Brien had been when they had first appeared in the Control Room.  “You will return to your duty station,” it told him impassively.

     “The men need to be given food and water.  They need to be able to stand down and a new shift to take their place.  They’ve been on duty for ten hours.  I don’t know how you work things where you’re from, but humans need food and rest,” O’Brien told the alien, standing firm, his hands clasped loosely behind his back as the second alien strode over to him.  Lee took another couple of slow, careful steps backwards out of the room.

     “You will return to your duty station,” the second alien echoed the first, grabbing O’Brien by the shoulder and pushing him.  O’Brien stumbled back a step, but caught himself and faced the aliens again.  The men were watching the exchange and the aliens’ attention was on O’Brien solely.  Lee eased slowly back toward the front porch, nearly to the crash doors.

     “I demand you address the basic needs of the men under my command.  As an officer of this vessel, it is my job to see to their well being,” O’Brien stated, his voice still calm and firm.  He was going to pull this off, Lee thought with a hesitant smile as he took another step back.  O’Brien was going to keep the guards distracted without getting anyone hurt.  Lee took another step backwards and reached a hand out blindly toward the crash doors, meaning to duck behind them.

     Then someone grabbed him by the wrist, twisted his arm behind his back and shoved him back into the Control Room by it, sending him sprawling as they let him go.  “Now, now, Captain Crane.  Why would you want to leave our company?” came an unfamiliar voice.  Lee twisted as he got back up to see another of the aliens coming into the Control Room from the nose of the Seaview.  This one seemed more animated than the two that had been guarding them, but not in a good way.  He smiled an entirely too shark-like smile at Lee and said, “Let’s discuss your crew, shall we, Captain Crane?” he asked, moving to stand near Lee.

     “Why have you attacked my boat?  Why are you here?” Lee demanded, meeting the alien’s black eyes.  They looked dead.

     The alien looked from Lee to O’Brien and sauntered between the two of them, taking in the rest of the Control Room as he did.  “My men, they follow my orders.  They are not very good at thinking for themselves.  They would never think of doing anything that I hadn’t specifically ordered them to do.  Your junior officer, was he following orders just now?” he asked casually, then turned to take O’Brien in again with that shark smile of his.

     Lee felt a sick twist in his gut.  Whoever this alien was, he was the man in charge of the invading force and he plainly didn’t have any problem with hurting people.  What would he do to O’Brien for distracting the guards and trying to help Lee to escape the Control Room?  Lee didn’t want to know.  “I am responsible for the actions of my entire crew,” he stated.

     The alien glanced at Lee but then looked back to O’Brien, moving next to him saying, “You say that because you value them and do not want your men to come to harm.  I can respect that, however, I think that your junior officer was not following orders just now, I think he was showing initiative.  So who should I punish for your aborted escape attempt, hmmm?”

     “I...” O’Brien started, looking defiant.

     Lee took a step forward.  “I told you, I’m responsible for the actions of my entire crew.”

     “Yes, you did,” the alien agreed, nodding.  One of his hands shot out and caught O’Brien around the throat, lifting the man seemingly effortlessly off the ground.  O’Brien choked, his hands clawing at the one squeezed tight around his neck.  Several of the men moved at their stations, but the other aliens glared them back to stillness.  “Let us understand each other, Captain Crane.  You, your crew, this vessel really, they are all meaningless to me.  I want something that only Admiral Nelson can give to me.  Once I have it, I will go.  All you need to do until then is stay out of my way, behave like nice, quiet, obedient servants that know not to attract the attention of their master.  If you do anything to hinder my efforts, as far too many things have as of late, I will become very angry.  Unpleasant things happen when I’m angry.  Am I being clear, Captain Crane?”  O’Brien’s struggles were growing weaker, not that the alien was looking at him.  His eyes were on Lee, his face twisting into a mask of displeasure.

     “Yes,” Lee said, praying that would be enough to get the alien to release O’Brien.

     Instead, the ugly grey thing swung O’Brien between the two of them, looking at him as he dangled helplessly from the hand around his throat.  “Do you think he understands?” he asked, his voice casual despite the fact that he was slowly killing O’Brien with his bare hand.

     “Yes.  Please, don’t...” Lee started, worried that the alien intended to strangle O’Brien to death to make an example of him, especially when O’Brien’s hands fell limply to his sides and his head rolled back.  The young officer was unconscious at best.  Lee didn’t want to think about the alternative.

     “Let’s see, shall we?  Everyone will remain exactly where they are or there will be repercussions,” the alien stated.  With that, he released O’Brien, who fell to the deck limply.  No one moved.  It took every ounce of Lee’s strength to remain still while O’Brien lay in front of him.  He couldn’t tell if the man was breathing.  “Oh, very good.  You can follow orders.  Captain Crane, where is Doctor Babin’s duty station when general quarters has been sounded on this vessel?” the alien asked.

     “The Observation Deck,” Lee murmured, almost afraid to even do that.  Why would the alien care about that?

     “And yet, she is not there.  Odd, don’t you think?  Where do you suppose she might be?” the alien asked.

     Lee looked up from O’Brien into the ridged, ugly, grey face before him.  The alien wanted something from the Admiral, something he wasn’t getting, and he wasn’t above hurting people.  Dom had made herself scarce and the alien was looking for her, probably to use her to threaten the Admiral.  Lee didn’t know where she had hidden herself, but wherever it was, Lee found himself approving.  Dom might not be a fighter, but she was smart and she could be counted on in a bad situation.  She might be able to get something helpful to the Admiral or Chip, help one of them get free somehow.  “I don’t know,” Lee told the creature truthfully.

     The alien frowned briefly, then shrugged.  “No matter.  You and your men are not needed here,” he said, then snapped his fingers.  “Bring them to one of the central living areas,” he ordered his men.  “Bring all the crew there.”  With that, he vanished in a cloud of foul smelling, black smoke.

     Lee hurriedly bent to O’Brien once he had disappeared.  “Frank...” he started worriedly, feeling for a pulse.  O’Brien twitched at his touch, then drew in a shuddering, coughing breath, which came as a massive relief.  Lee helped O’Brien to his feet, pulling one of the younger man’s arms over his shoulders as they were herded out of the Control Room with the rest of the crew.  “O’Brien, are you with us?  Are you all right?” Lee asked softly as he all but carried the man along.

     “Sore throat,” O’Brien wheezed out, raising his free hand to his neck as he got his feet under himself.  “Sorry, sir.”

     “It was a good plan, Frank.  I’m only sorry it didn’t work,” Lee told him.  He got a pointed shove in the back from one of the aliens and Lee scowled at the creature, but didn’t say anything else for the time being.  He and the rest of the Control Room watch were herded into the Officer’s Mess.  Ro was already there with the engineering watch, which made Lee feel better.  She had the habit of standing up to bullies and he had been a little concerned for her safety.  She moved to Lee and looked O’Brien over as he sat the younger man down at one of the tables.  Ro had done pre med work when studying for her psychology degree, so it was lucky that she was there, since Jamieson wasn’t.

     “Get some ice in a towel here,” she ordered as she carefully examined the bruises coming up on O’Brien’s throat.  She gave him a gentle cuff on the back of the head saying, “Don’t you know not to antagonize the monsters yet, O’Brien?  You’ve been working here longer than me and I know that.”

     “Yeah, yeah.  You beat me up too.  See if you get a Christmas present from me this year,” O’Brien wheezed at her, favoring her with a weak grin.  Walters handed him a towel with ice wrapped in it and O’Brien gingerly pressed it to his throat with a wince.

     “Keep that on there.  You hurt anywhere else?” Ro asked.

     “Just my pride,” O’Brien sighed.

     “That’ll heal on it’s own,” Ro told him, patting him gently on the shoulder.  She looked up to Lee, frowning a little.  “He’ll live, if any of us do.  What’s going on?  Who are these things?”

     “I don’t know,” Lee said, growing very tired of those words.

     “So what do we do?” Ro asked, sounding impatient and maybe a little worried.

     “For now, we wait,” Lee replied, much as he wanted to be able to do something else.  At the moment, he could only see that getting some of his crew killed.  He told himself that Chip was all right and keeping the men with him from doing anything rash.  He wondered again where Dom had vanished to, but was glad that she had managed to keep herself out of the aliens’ hands.  As long as even one member of the crew was free, there was a chance the rest of them would find a way out of this.

* * *

     Dylan brought Nelson to main Engineering and the Admiral dictated a list of what he would need to Rommie as they walked.  Much as he was a little awestruck by the fact that a person of such huge historic significance was on his ship, there were things that were bothering him to.  Nelson was plainly the ‘Master’ that Barris had kept talking about, but it didn’t look like the older man had been treating Harper badly.  In fact, the exact opposite seemed to be the case and Dylan didn’t know how to deal with that.  When Nelson had called Harper ‘son,’ when he had stroked Harper’s head back on the Seaview, there had been genuine fatherly affection there and it had taken Dylan by surprise.  Harper annoyed people, he didn’t endear himself to them.

     Of course, there was Doctor Babin to consider too.  Sure, Tyr had said that she and Harper were engaged, but Dylan had expected that to be some sort of misunderstanding or for their relationship to be all about sex.  The way Harper had always talked about women, sex was all he was interested in, not that he ever got any as far as Dylan was aware.  Seeing Harper and Doctor Babin together for the few moments on the Medical Deck, Dylan knew they loved each other.  Again, it was something that didn’t seem to make sense.  Had Doctor Babin seen past all the swagger somehow to a softer, gentler soul hiding beneath it?  He had known Harper for a couple of years now and he had only seen brief glimpses of that vulnerable person the kid kept hidden behind the bragging and general nonstop talking and bustling around.  Harper had only been missing a few days and it was like he was coming back as someone none of them knew.

     “I hope Harper hasn’t been making too much of a pest of himself, Admiral.  He’s a good kid, but he can be a handful,” Dylan commented once Nelson had finished his dictation.

     Nelson cast a glance his way and said, “Seamus has been a genuine pleasure to work with, I assure you, Captain.  He’s made a lot of friends at the Institute.  He’s been quite happy.”

     “We all feared the worst.  Beka Valentine... Harper’s mentioned her?”  Nelson nodded.  “She’s just coming back from a pretty hair raising trip to Barris’ home world in an effort to find Harper or get help to find him.  She should be back here in a day or so.  I have to tell her we’ve got Harper home, safe and mostly sound, so that she’ll stop worrying about him.  I doubt she’ll let him out of her sight any time in the near future.  It is good to have him back where he belongs,” Dylan said, thinking he was going to clear the air on that point right away.  He’d finally gotten Harper back.  He had no intention of losing him again.

     Nelson frowned, saying, “I’m sure Seamus will be glad to hear from Captain Valentine.  He’s been quite upset about the possibility that she might worrying about him.  Of course, now he’ll probably be concerned about what his new friends must be thinking.  After all, Barris took him rather violently from the Institute right in front of them, and that was directly after he had protected them from the Magog.  They’ll certainly be happy to see him again when we get home.”

     Now it was Dylan’s turn to frown.  It seemed the Admiral wasn’t going to give up Harper without a fight.  Of course, the gentleness and concern Nelson had shown the young man earlier had warned Dylan that was a pretty big possibility.  “Home?  Harper was born here, not three thousand years ago,” Dylan replied, keeping his tone neutral for the time being.

     “But he was born on Earth, not on a space ship or some alien world.  It’s not as though he could go to live on Earth in this time and not come to harm.  It’s a shame that Earth doesn’t seem high on your list of places to liberate,” Nelson replied almost immediately, though his manner was still casual despite of his scolding words.  Dylan knew Harper was more than unhappy about the fact that no one was doing anything about Earth being in the hands of the Drago Kazov.

     “It’s not as easy as all that and Harper understands that, much as he might not like it.  He was the one that talked Beka into helping me to try to reestablish the Commonwealth and start straightening out the mess the universe has become,” Dylan told Nelson.  “And I’m not too proud to say that I need him.  I can’t keep my ship running without him.”

     “He is the best engineer I’ve ever had,” Rommie chimed in her agreement on the matter.

     “I don’t doubt it,” Nelson agreed amiably enough.  “He likes his work, but he loves Dominica.”

     Dylan scowled.  Damn.  The love trump card.  He knew Nelson was going to slap that one down eventually.  Still, he had a few aces us his sleeve yet.  “She’s an amazing girl.  She talked sense to a Perseid that I was having troubles with in record time.  I could sure use someone as effortlessly diplomatic as she is to help speed along what I’m trying to do,” Dylan commented nonchalantly.

     “Yes, someone like her would suit your mission quite well,” Nelson said, his tone growing warning.

     At this point they reached main Engineering and Nelson set immediately to work.  Dylan watched him, wanting to continue their discussion, but not wanting to slow the building of the weapon.  He wanted to continue their veiled argument over Harper, especially now that it had gotten interesting and had moved to include Doctor Babin as well.  Now that he really thought about it, having a full time diplomat, especially one that one that was historically good at dealing with alien races, would be great.  Sure, she wasn’t supposed to be doing that until she was much older, but she plainly already had a knack for it.

     Dylan leaned back against a counter, watching the Admiral work and thinking.  If they liberated the Seaview and got rid of Barris, Dylan didn’t know how to go about getting Nelson and his people home right away.  Obviously, they did get home.  The history books made that a forgone conclusion.  However, while they were stuck here with the Andromeda, would it be so bad putting people to work?  Dylan thought about giving Doctor Babin some briefings then putting her in a room with some of the people that had been on the fence about restarting the Commonwealth.  If she could talk even a handful of them down, the rest would follow.  That would be good for everyone, wouldn’t it?

     Turning to one of the computer screens in the room, Dylan decided to brush up on a little history.  Was this incident in any of the Seaview’s published logs?  How much time did he have?  Dylan searched, but the histories concerning the Seaview were rather vague.  That didn’t deter him, though.  He decided he would look into the life of Doctor Babin.  Maybe she would stay with them for a while if asked, if he found a way to get the Seaview back and perhaps return her home at a later date.  Harper would help him to convince her.  This was his home, no matter what Nelson said, and he knew how much there needed to be a Commonwealth and a united defense against the oncoming Magog invasion.  Dylan wasn’t foolish enough to think that Harper would stay, though.  Doctor Babin got home, obviously, and after what he’d seen in Medical, Harper would be packing his bags to go with her.  Dylan thought about Harper being gone, permanently gone.  As undisciplined and downright incorrigible as Harper was, Dylan couldn’t picture the Andromeda without him.

     Shaking him head and snapping himself back to the matter at hand, Dylan started to scan the information about Doctor Babin, but before he could read more than three words, the Andromeda said urgently, “Dylan, Barris is in Medical.”

     “Damn,” Dylan swore under his breath, rather glad that the ship had told him in Galactic.  He turned to Nelson.  “How close are you to done with that, sir?”

     “I’ve barely started,” Nelson said, frowning.  “What did your ship just say?”

     “Never mind.  I have to check on something,” Dylan said, trying to sound nonchalant as he turned to the door and forced himself to walk casually towards it.  They needed the weapon that Nelson was building.  They needed to be rid over Barris above and beyond everything else at the moment.  “Just keep going and let the Andromeda know if you need anything.”  He could out into the corridor and forced himself to walk a little further, then broke into a run.  “Andromeda, what’s happening in Medical.”

     “I don’t know.  Barris is doing something to my sensors again,” Andromeda told him, sounding angry about it.  Dylan didn’t blame her.  He wanted the weapon Nelson was building so bad he could taste it.

* * *

 

 

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Belonging, Chapter One
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