Belonging

by

Michelle Pichette

 

Chapter 59

 

 

* * *

     Tyr watched as the girl pulled a sheet up over Harper’s freshly bandaged chest, then stroked his head gently.  The mother of Earth Intergalactic diplomacy intimately involved with the least diplomatic person Tyr knew.  It boggled the mind.  “How long will he sleep?” she asked, looking up at him, but staying by Harper’s side, touching him.

     “A few hours,” Tyr said with a casual shrug.  Tyr didn’t add that he intended to have Harper eat something when he woke, then would sedate him again.  Harper had been severely exhausted.  Tyr doubted that he’d slept very much, if at all, in quite some time.  Tyr couldn’t understand why Harper never seemed to take good care of himself.  Did he think that he could abuse himself this way and not pay a price eventually?  The trauma of what Barris had done to him had very nearly been too much for the boy.  He was lucky that his sorely taxed body had not simply shut down very permanently.  Tyr would scold him while he ate, not that Harper would listen.  Maybe the girl would and she would force the little engineer to adopt healthier habits.  She seemed fit and healthy.

     “Does he need anything else?” she asked, stroking Harper’s cheek gently.  The bruise there was fading a little already.  That was good.  The nanobots were doing their job.

     “He should eat.  The nutrient patches we put on him will keep the nanobots repairing him from using up too much of his personal resources in the short term, but there is a significant amount of damage that needs healing,” Tyr told her.

     “Lot’s of protein and calcium, then,” Doctor Babin said, nodding.  “Anything else?”

     “For now, resting and letting his body recover is what he needs most.  After that, regular exercise, more sleep, and a healthier diet would be advisable,” Tyr said.

     “I’ll keep that in mind,” the girl said, giving him a little smirk.  Tyr raised an eyebrow at her and she laughed softly.  “This is Seamus we’re talking about here.  I’ll do what I can, but getting all three would be somewhat miraculous.”

     Tyr favored her with a thin smile.  “Yes, wouldn’t it.”  He was about to go into some reasonable tactics that he thought she might use to pull off this miracle, when Barris appeared suddenly behind her.

     Tyr didn’t waste words or time by warning her.  He simply grabbed the girl and swung her behind him as he moved forward swiftly at Barris, roaring as he went.  Barris didn’t get to say anything at first because Tyr pounded him in the chest, nearly sinking a fist into the alien’s chest cavity through his rib cage by the feel of things.  The girl squeaked in alarm behind him and Tyr saw another alien materialize there, entirely too near Doctor Babin and Harper for comfort.  Tyr turned his attention back to Barris for an instant, snapping a blow into the bridge of the alien’s nose, driving bone and cartilage into the alien’s brain.  As Barris dropped, Tyr spun around and grabbed the soldier reaching for Doctor Babin and snapped his arm over one knee, then slammed the alien’s head into that same knee, shattering the creature’s skull.

     “We’re leaving,” Tyr told Doctor Babin as he snatched Harper off his bed and threw him unceremoniously over one shoulder, then grabbed the girl’s arm and pulled her from the room.  Thankfully, Doctor Babin didn’t argue with him, she simply ran with him up the corridor without a word.  Tyr was sure Barris would be up and around in a matter of moments and he was going to have his two charges well away from him when he did rise.  Infuriatingly, Barris appeared before them in the corridor, looking as though nothing had happened a moment ago.

     “Tyr Anasazi, give me the slave and the girl.  Neither belongs here,” Barris said, his tone attempting to be reasonable though his words were anything but.

     “You will have neither of the little professor nor his lady as long as I live,” Tyr informed the alien, making sure his grip on Doctor Babin’s arm and Harper’s legs was tight.  He veered off to one side and pulled the girl in close so he could wrap his arm tightly around her as he jumped through one of the access ladder wells.  He felt more than heard Doctor Babin’s breath catch and she clutched at him as they fell swiftly down.  To her credit, she didn’t scream, though he had expected her to.  She was surprisingly brave for someone so tiny.  Tyr was rather glad that Harper was unconscious.  He could only imagine how the engineer would have reacted to what he’d just done.  The Andromeda shifted her gravity matrix and ten decks down, when they reached the bottom of the well, Tyr almost bounced when he landed.  He broke into a run almost immediately, not bothering to put Doctor Babin down when he did.  It was faster to carry her then drag her and it wasn’t as though she was a heavy person.

     “Open the G deck armory, ship, authorization Weapons’ Officer Anasazi, zero two seven two six,” Tyr shouted as he ran.  Seconds later, he was swinging Doctor Babin through the opening door of a room with very little free space.  That was because most of the area of the room was filled with rack after rack of Commonwealth weaponry.  Tyr dropped Doctor Babin on her butt in one corner of the room and then put Harper into her arms before she could rise.  “Stay there!” he ordered her sternly, then stood directly in front of her, a gun in one hand, his force lance in his other. 

     Barris, predictably, appeared in front of Tyr, looking rather disgruntled.  “Tyr Anasazi, really, what purpose does this serve?” he asked, sounding put out about having to do so.  “Does it restore your clan?  Does it preserve your life?”

     “Quite possibly both of those, since if harm comes to the girl, there might never have been a Nietzschean race,” Tyr said in Galactic Common, sighting his force lance on Barris.  Since the matriarch of the Nietzschean race was a mystery, many names had been bandied about as to who it might have been.  Doctor Babin or one of her illustrious progeny were strong contenders in those discussions.  Tyr rather doubted it could be Doctor Babin herself.  She was far too tiny.  However, a daughter or granddaughter was not out of the question.  That aside, if Earth had not remained autonomous, her scientists would have never built the Ayn Rand Station, where the Nietzschean race was born.  Doctor Babin might not have contributed her genetics to his race, but without her, Tyr knew there was a strong possibility that he would never have existed.  Barris would not touch her, not so long as Tyr drew breath.

     “The slave then...” Barris started.  Tyr shot him in the face for that poor choice of words.

     “Harper is our Chief Engineer,” Tyr corrected him, shooting Barris again and again every time he straightened.  “He is an officer of this vessel.  He belongs here.  Doctor Babin was invited.  By me.  She belongs here.  You are not a member of our crew.  You are not welcomed here.”  To punctuate that statement, Tyr shot Barris with both force lance and gun, driving Barris out into the corridor.  “Or perhaps that should have been apparent without my having to say so,” Tyr sniffed, tossing some braids back over one shoulder.

     Barris got up, now outside the armory, and stared at Tyr as if he had done something surprising.  “You don’t understand!” he protested almost childishly.

     “Nor do I care to,” Tyr told him.

     “It’s to blame for all of this!” Barris accused, obviously talking about Harper.

     Tyr’s brow knit for an instant.  “He has been a victim of your insanity.  Nothing more.”

     Dylan arrived in the corridor then.  Barris turned to him, shouting, “You’re making all this happen!  Kill the slave and it all ends, but no, you won’t do that!”

     Dylan, who had obviously just run here from main engineering and was a little breathless, stared at Barris in incomprehension for a moment.  “Seamus had never even seen your people before you attacked him,” Doctor Babin said.

     “If you hadn’t come to my ship, none of us, including Harper, would know you existed,” Dylan finally spoke up.  “Now you want me to kill a member of my crew, one that you have some sort of twisted grudge against even though he doesn’t know you.  Even if you were asking me to do something remotely reasonable, why would I do anything you want after all the trouble you’ve given me?”

     Suddenly Barris got a calculating look on his face.  “Because I can destroy the Magog for you,” he said with his shark-like grin.  Dylan’s brow creased.  “Yes,” Barris continued as though the white knight that was Dylan Hunt would be tempted by such as devil’s deal.  “I can destroy the Worldships you so fear.  I can do it easily.  Think of it, one insignificant life for billions upon billions.  It would feel no pain if you did it right now.”

     Dylan’s face went hard.  “Get off my ship,” he said, his voice low and hoarse with restrained fury.

     Barris looked at Tyr.  “You could do it.  You know the battle you face is not winnable.  This way you never have to fight it.  Survival is the Nietzschean way, after all,” he said.

     Tyr glowered at him.  “Leave before I kill you again.”

     Barris scowled and backed a step away from them.  “You will regret this.  All of you.”  And with that, he vanished in his foul puff of smoke.

     Tyr looked to Dylan.  “He’s not only dead, he’s insane.  The boy couldn’t harm him if he tried.  Barris has no reason for his vendetta.”

     Dylan frowned a little.  “Harper found a way to destroy Barris’ soldiers.”  One of Tyr’s eyebrows quirked upwards.  “The weapon that Nelson is building, it’s something Harper invented.”

     “While that is an interesting development, Barris’ obsession with Harper started before the weapon was devised,” Tyr replied.

     “Could it have something to do with all the time travel?”

     “That is a possibility, I suppose.”

     “A little help,” came Doctor Babin’s voice from behind him and Dylan moved with Tyr to her.  She had been so quiet that Tyr had almost forgotten about her.  Harper lay bonelessly on her, his head resting nestled between her breasts.  Tyr smirked a little.  Harper would be devastated that he hadn’t been conscious for it.

     “I’m so sorry, Doctor.  You’re not hurt, are you?” Dylan asked as he carefully lifted Harper.

     Tyr offered her a hand as she said, “I’m fine.  Tyr kept the alien from hurting me or Seamus.  I don’t understand.  What does he want with me?  Why does he want to kill Seamus?”

     Dylan shook his head.  “I don’t know.  Barris has been here for days, demanding to join my crew and wanting Harper gone.  I’m guessing he’s been doing the same thing with Admiral Nelson.  The thing is, we don’t know what he’s really up to, what’s really going on.  Beka Valentine is on her way back here with some people from Barris’ home world.  We’re hoping they can shed some light on things or talk Barris into going away quietly,” he told her as they started up the corridor.  He looked to Doctor Babin and gave her a fond smile.  “If Barris follows his usual pattern, he’ll be gone for a while.  I think you should get some rest while he’s gone.  Tyr will stay close, so don’t worry.  Harper keeps a cot stashed in main engineering.  I’ll keep an eye on him there.”

     Doctor Babin smiled and shook her head at him.  “If it’s all the same to you, I think I’d like to stay close to Seamus right now.  So, do you want me in engineering or is he coming with me?”

     Dylan halted, looking baffled.  He plainly didn’t know how to respond to Doctor Babin’s question, most likely because he was not comfortable with her relationship with Harper.  “I’ll take them to Harper’s cabin and stand guard there,” Tyr said, moving to take the boy from Dylan.  The Captain hesitated, looking uncertain.  “You should get back to the Admiral.  Barris has interacted with him in the past.  He might do so again,” Tyr said, carefully removing Harper from Dylan’s arms.  Slinging the boy over his shoulder again, Tyr turned to Doctor Babin, saying, “Come, girl.  Harper’s quarters tend to be unpredictable.  There’s no telling what might greet us there.”

     “I just cleaned his cabin very thoroughly,” the Andromeda stated, sounding indignant as Tyr lead the way to the nearest lift.  Harper wasn’t particularly heavy, but Tyr didn’t want to carry him up ladders for several decks.

     “You’re not hurting him carrying him like that?” Doctor Babin asked as she moved next to him.

     “If I hurt him, you might decide to retaliate, which would suit neither of us,” Tyr said, glancing back.  Dylan had started in the opposite direction, heading for engineering.  What would Dylan do when it came time for the Seaview and her crew to return home, Tyr wondered.  Would the good Captain let Harper go?  Tyr had no doubt that given the choice that Harper would leave, follow Doctor Babin back to her time and her home.  The boy loved her, after all.  Even seeing them interact very briefly on the medical deck, Tyr knew the two of them loved each other.  The problem was, love was fragile and the powers that be that moved through the universe enjoyed shattering fragile things.  Tyr thought about Freya and their son and allowed himself to miss them briefly.  Maybe Harper would be luckier than he had been, Tyr thought as he buried those emotions again.  Maybe the universe would be kind to the boy for once.

* * *

     Nelson wondered for a moment where Hunt had gone off to so suddenly, but there were no alarms and everything aboard the huge starship seemed peaceful enough, so he decided not to worry about it.  Building the weapon that Harper had outlined was taxing enough to occupy his total concentration.  The way Harper managed to make things like this look easy only served to show how good the boy was at what he did.  Nelson was glad that Harper was being cared for and that he wouldn’t suffer any sort of permanent harm from what Barris had done to him.  It had been a huge relief to see the pain fade from the boy’s face and hear how minor his injuries were considered by his comrades here in the future.

     Of course, what Hunt had been saying after they had left the Medical deck had been a little disconcerting.  It seemed the good Captain wasn’t going to let Harper go gracefully, added to that it was like he wanted to talk Dominica into staying here in the future as well!  Nelson frowned.  That was totally unacceptable.  Harper and Dominica were coming back with him to Santa Barbara.  That was where they both belonged.  Nelson would make certain that Hunt understood that was what was going to happen as soon as this Barris situation was taken care of.

     As if on cue, Barris suddenly appeared to Nelson’s left, saying, “Admiral, we need to talk.”

     Nelson spun in Barris’ direction, pointing the partially constructed weapon at the alien.  If he didn’t suspect it might blow up in his hand on activation, Nelson would have blasted Barris the second he was in his sights.  “Step away from the Admiral, Barris,” came the Andromeda’s voice, her tone warning, as devices near the ceiling of the room swung to point in Barris direction.

     “We have nothing discuss,” Nelson seconded that sentiment.

     “I have your vessel and its crew,” Barris replied, as if Nelson needed reminding.

     “You will release them into our custody at once,” the Andromeda demanded.

     “Certainly,” Barris said, giving Nelson his shark-like smile.  “I only require that you kill your new pet.”

     Nelson’s brow knit in confusion.  “What?!”

     “It is unconscious and will give you no trouble,” Barris continued as if he were talking about something ordinary and reasonable.  “Once it is dead, I will place the Seaview on some world with an atmosphere that will support your people and we will discuss my crew joining your employ permanently.”

     “You’re utterly insane,” Nelson stated.  “You’ve killed my employees, kidnapped others, tortured a helpless boy in front of me and are now demanding his death.  Why would I do that?  Why would I give you anything at all?”

     “Because I can crush the Seaview.  I can kill everyone aboard,” Barris threatened, but Nelson found himself unswayed.

     “You won’t, though,” Nelson told him.  “You won’t because I would make it my life’s mission to make sure you paid for it.”

     “He won’t because he can’t,” came Hunt’s voice from the direction of the doorway to the room.  Nelson glanced in that direction to see Hunt coming up to them, his force lance drawn and trained on Barris.  “You can’t kill anyone, can you?  You need to have someone else do your dirty work.  You would have killed Harper yourself the very first time you came aboard my ship, but something is stopping you.  You keep calling him names and attempting to make him sound insignificant, but he’s not, is he?  Not to you.  Why do you hate Harper so much?  What did he do?  Or is it something that he will do?”

     Barris scowled at Hunt.  “You don’t understand,” he snarled.

     “Then explain it to me!” Hunt demanded, sounding totally fed up.  Nelson could sympathize.  “Explain it to all of us.  What do you really want from us?  Why the hell are you here?”

     “I want the little slave dead,” Barris snarled, then looked to the Admiral.  “You should have cut him apart ages ago.  The neural net and nanobots should have been incentive enough.  They would be far more valuable than anything it could have built for you.”

     “Seamus is worth more to me than some scientific trinkets,” Nelson told the alien, shaking his head at him.

     “The space vessels it would have constructed...” Barris started again.

     “I don’t give a damn about any of that,” Nelson interrupted him angrily.  “You refuse to see it, but it’s not what Seamus can do for us that we value, it’s Seamus himself that is special.  He gave me something I had long since given up on thinking I might ever have, something that is beyond price.”  He had not intended to say anything remotely like that, but Nelson knew the words were the truth.  The closeness he felt with Harper, the warmth he had felt spread through him when the boy had embraced him, it was more precious than anything else in the universe.  Harper, who had every reason to be guarded and aloof, had given himself to him unconditionally, expecting nothing in return.  Nelson would protect him to his dying breath.  Barris wouldn’t touch his boy again, he thought as he tightened his grip on the lance he was building, wishing it were complete.

     “Then perhaps I will give him to Captain Crane and see if he thinks taking the little slave’s life is worth having the Seaview returned to the oceans I removed it from,” Barris said.

     “He won’t,” Hunt said.  “He’s an honorable man.  He would never murder an unconscious kid.  None of the men serving on the Seaview would.  That’s why Nelson chose them for his sub.  Not that Tyr would let you take Harper in the first place.  Just put the Seaview back where it belongs.  Holding her further won’t help you and neither will anyone aboard her.  Why do you want Harper dead so badly?  Just tell us the truth, Barris.”

     Barris looked to Hunt, then quickly back at Nelson, his face a mask of desperation.  He let out a roar of frustration, then vanished in a stinking cloud of black smoke.  Nelson frowned, looking to Hunt himself.  “Is Seamus in danger?”

     “No,” Hunt said, his tone absolutely certain.  However, his expression was troubled.  “What you said to Barris...” he started, then didn’t seem to know how to continue.

     The Admiral met his eyes.  “I meant every word,” he told Hunt, not ashamed of his affection for Harper.  “You won’t need to worry about him when this is over.  He’ll be safe and loved, with a new family and a life among friends and peers at the Institute.  He’ll be happy.”

     Hunt frowned a little.  “I haven’t decided about letting him go yet.”

     “The decision isn’t yours or mine.  Seamus is a grown man.  It’s his choice.  I wouldn’t take him with me if he didn’t want to go.  Would you force him to stay here against his will?” Nelson asked.  Had Harper misjudged Hunt?  Had he been a prisoner on the Andromeda and just never known it?  Barris kept calling Harper a slave and Nelson had thought the alien was referring to the boy’s childhood.  What if things had not changed as much as Harper had thought they had?

     “And Doctor Babin is a grown woman.  We’re trying to save the universe.  Maybe they might decide to stay,” Hunt said defensively.  That was a bit of a relief.  At least Hunt wasn’t declaring ownership over Harper or saying that Captain Valentine would have a claim on him.

     “They might, but I doubt it,” Nelson replied, thinking about what Harper had told him when they had discussed using the Pem device.  This wasn’t the boy’s home any longer.  No, Nelson was confident that, given the choice, Harper would be returning to the Institute as soon as they found a way back.  Too bad the Pem device was in his safe back at the Institute.  “Doctor Babin has family and friends back in our time.  Earth in the past is a comparatively peaceful place and it’s the only home she’s ever known.  Feel free to try to convince her to the contrary, but I don’t think that your ship, as large and fascinating as she is, could ever be that to her.  As for Harper, he more than respects you and he cares deeply for Captain Valentine and his other friends here, but he fell in love with Doctor Babin.  He wants to make a safe home for her and the family he wants to have with her.  As much as he wants to please you and your ship, he can’t do that here.  He deserves something good in his life after everything he’s been through, doesn’t he?  A chance at a normal, happy life?”

     Hunt stood silently for a moment, not seeming to know what to do.  “He’s a good kid, a good kid that’s been hurt a lot, and not just physically,” he said finally.  “His track record with women... Let’s just say that it hasn’t exactly been stellar.  If he were to go with you and things didn’t work out between him and Doctor Babin, then what?  I get the feeling she would be the one reason he would actually leave.”

     Nelson felt a smile spread across his face.  “That should be the least of your worries.  The two of them were made for each other,” he said with a good natured laugh.

     “It’s just hard to picture, Harper with Doctor Dominique Charles,” Hunt sighed out, looking a little at a loss.

     Nelson’s brow knit.  “Charles?  What are you talking about?”  Then it dawned on him that he might not be the only person that had gained notoriety in the future.  Well, he did pride himself on hiring the best of the best.  It shouldn’t really come as a surprise that some of his employees might become known in their own right.  “Never mind.  I don’t need to know.  I should have this weapon finished soon.  How long should Seamus be sleeping?”

     “I’m not sure.  Andromeda?” Hunt asked.

     Suddenly, an image of a dark haired woman appeared before them.  Harper had talked about the Andromeda’s holograms and about the android avatar he had built.  Obviously this was one of the former.  “Tyr and Doctor Babin are settling him into his bed right now and the movement doesn’t seem to be waking him.  The advice of the medical database is that he be put on bed rest and a high calorific diet for the next three or four days.  By then, his arm will be healed and he should be a little closer to his ideal weight.”

     “You moved him to his quarters?” Nelson asked, wondering why the boy wasn’t still in the Sick Bay.  It was good to hear that his arm would be repaired so quickly, but Nelson still wanted Harper well cared for until he had fully recovered.

     “He’ll be more comfortable there and it’s an easier area for Tyr to guard,” Hunt replied.  That was reasonable enough, but Nelson had the sneaking suspicion that he wasn’t being told something.  “Andromeda, let us know when Harper wakes up.”

     “Of course, Dylan,” the ship replied, then the hologram winked out.

     Nelson looked back to Hunt.  “Your ship calls you by your first name, Captain Hunt?” he asked with a little disapproval.  This was a military vessel and that seemed to speak of laxness.

     “Most everyone does,” Hunt replied with an easy smile.  “I really wish you would too, Admiral.”

     “Hmm,” Nelson hummed, still not approving of the matter.  He turned back to his work.  So, Captain Hunt was ‘Dylan,’ Captain Valentine was ‘Beka,’ and even Anasazi was ‘Tyr,’ but Harper was just Harper, not Seamus.  Why was that?  Everyone got familiarity but the boy, it seemed.  Even the ship called him Harper.  Hunt could argue until his was blue in the face that he had opened his ship as a new home to the young man, but the more Nelson heard and saw, the more he believed that it wasn’t entirely true.  They couldn’t back to Santa Barbara too soon, he decided as he began to work on the weapon. 

* * *

 

 

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