Michelle Pichette


Chapter 63



* * *

     Once the Seaview had been swept for intruders and none were found, Nelson felt fairly certain that all of the aliens were gone or smoldering piles of ash to be swept away.  Barris himself had not put in an appearance, which was confusing.  Nelson would have thought that the alien leader would have put some sort of effort into stopping what had happened, the destruction of his people in particular.  The entire operation had been too easy and Nelson had the feeling that the worst was yet to come.  The one thing that was even part way encouraging was that Hunt had said that there were only one hundred of the aliens at the start of things and twenty three had been destroyed in the retaking of the Seaview.  Including the one that Nelson had initially disintegrated, Barris’ forces were nearly a quarter down and he didn’t seem to have the possibility of gaining reinforcements.  Nelson was relieved that there had been no deaths on the Seaview and only a few relatively minor injuries reported.  Things could have been far, far worse.

     According to Doctor Jamieson, Edwards and O’Brien were going to be fine, that their injuries were being treated and that the men could return to restricted duty.  Much as Nelson would have liked to have Jamieson examine Harper, the boy was sleeping and Nelson didn’t want to disturb him.  When Harper woke, Nelson would have the doctor examine him thoroughly and see what Jamieson thought of the care the engineer had received so far.  Nelson found himself distrusting nanobots and the cavalier attitude that Hunt and Anasazi had displayed concerning Harper’s injuries.  Nelson would have had Harper brought over to the Seaview and kept him there if he didn’t want the boy’s neural net removed.  Watching as Harper’s eyes roll up into his head and as he seemingly passed out when he’d stuck that metal wand into the disk in his neck had been extremely unsettling.  Nelson never wanted him to do that again.  He doubted that Harper would argue the wisdom of disposing of the neural net.  After all, he really would have no need of it when they all returned home.  He thought about getting rid of the nanobots too, but after considering Harper’s recent close call from something that shouldn’t have even made him ill, Nelson decided the tiny machines could stay.

     Looking in on Harper on one of the Andromeda’s monitors made Nelson smile warmly.  With Doctor Babin cuddled up next to him, Harper looked content and would probably sleep quietly as he had at the Institute infirmary when she had been near.  They made such a sweet couple and the Admiral knew they would be happy once they were settled in their life together in Santa Barbara.  Nelson would see to it personally that they had a lovely wedding and a long, relaxing honeymoon.  Much as Doctor Lorn had thought that she had been teasing him with the thought of bouncing babies on his knees, Nelson found himself looking forward to it.

     The one thing he had missed most about not marrying was not having children, a son specifically.  Over the last few weeks, spending time with Harper, a bond had formed and Nelson looked forward to years of that closeness, of having a kindred spirit there at the Institute to invent things with, someone he could teach and learn from, someone he could lavish affection on without it feeling odd or forced.  Lee was a close friend, but he was his own man and Nelson always considered him to be like a younger brother.  Thinking that made him reflect on Edith and how she would feel about Harper.  Edith had always wanted a nephew or niece to spoil.  Harper could do with a little spoiling and Nelson could picture Edith’s delight at his easy, enthusiastic displays of affection.  Edith was going to adore him.  Nelson was sure of it.  He would discuss things with Edith, of course, but he planned to see a lawyer and make Harper a legal, permanent part of his family.  Harper was going to be so happy being a Nelson, being a husband and father.  The Admiral felt content just thinking about how good it would all be.

     As he turned from the monitor, he found himself looking at Hunt.  Nelson had every intention of keeping his word, of not coercing Harper at all and letting him decided where he wanted to spend the rest of his life.  He was also absolutely certain of what that decision would be and that Hunt would probably not be happy about it.  Nelson could almost feel sorry for him.  Almost.  Hunt should have seen how desperately Harper had wanted and needed an older man to guide him, to be the strong force in his life that he’d lost when his father had been murdered when he was far too young.  Hunt could have easily stepped into that role, but he had missed his chance and Nelson did not feel at all guilty about the fact that he would never get a second one.

     At the moment, Hunt was staring at Barris’ ship on the Andromeda’s main view screen.  This brought Barris back to the forefront of Nelson’s thoughts.  What was Barris up to right at this moment?  His strange, derelict ship hadn’t moved since the Seaview had been extracted from it, according to the Andromeda.  She had the vessel in her sights and was only waiting for Hunt’s word to blast it to pieces and seemed eager to do so.  Nelson didn’t know what the man was waiting for.

     “So, that’s the ship that caused all this trouble,” Lee commented from just behind him.  He and Miss Simmons had accompanied them from the Seaview when they had left.  To say that the Andromeda has impressed them would have been a huge understatement.  Miss Simmons had looked around in awe and murmured something about owing Harper an apology.  Lee had been silent, but had kept casting distrustful looks at Hunt’s back.  Nelson didn’t fully blame him.  A lot had happened and Lee didn’t have the benefit of Harper’s numerous, colorful stories about Hunt to give him any idea as to what to expect from the man.

     “Yes, that’s Barris’ ship,” Hunt said, frowning at it.

     “Well, why aren’t we blowing the thing up?” Lee demanded.

     Hunt shook his head, seeming distracted.  “I don’t think it matters if we do,” he replied.

     Nelson saw a dark look of anger forming on Lee’s face and he decided he’d better intercede.  “Because Barris is already dead, you mean,” he surmised aloud.

     “That and because Barris didn’t respond to us attacking it before,” Hunt replied, still looking at the hulk on the screen.  “I think Tyr is right.  The ship is a cutout, a model of what Barris would actually like to have.  I don’t know if he knows for certain what it’s supposed to be like and that’s why his ship is the way it is.”

     “What does any of that matter?” Lee asked.  “Blast the thing apart.  Force his hand.  Make him come here.  Let’s deal with this Barris person before he can hurt anyone else.”

     “And how would you deal with me, Captain Crane?” came Barris’ voice from behind them.  Nelson turned drawing his force lance as he did and four bolts slammed into the wall where Barris had been, leaving a charred, sunk in area.  “You’ll only damage your ship doing that,” Barris scolded, now in front of the view screen.

     “Don’t!” Nelson and Hunt said simultaneously as Lee and Miss Simmons brought their weapons over in that direction.  They didn’t look happy about it, but neither of them fired.

     “Why are you here, Barris?  No one is going to do anything that you want.  Why don’t you just go away?” Hunt asked, sounded totally fed up.

     “Because I can’t,” Barris replied, shrugging, seeming unconcerned about the weapons pointing in his direction.  “We are all bound together until the end unless you accept me and my crew as part of your retinue.  It’s the only way things can change.  You should also kill the slave or give it to me.  I’ll find him a new master, one well out of our way.”

     “I see,” Nelson said, nodding to this new information.  “So Seamus hasn’t done whatever you hate him for as yet.”  Barris frowned and that only served to make Nelson certain that was true.  “What does he do, Barris?  How would Captain Hunt or I accepting you change things?”  Barris looked away and Nelson scowled.  “Tell me!” he barked and the alien actually jumped.

     “It’s to blame!” Barris shouted back at him.  “It’s a pathetic, worthless thing that you should despise for its weakness, but you love it instead, treat it as kin!”  He turned to Hunt now, ranting, “It talks ceaselessly and causes troubles uncountable with its impetuousness, yet you hold it without blame.”  He looked between the two of them at this point.  “Both of you should want to be rid of it, but you coddle it instead.  It isn’t even a good pet.  It’s small and sickly.  It’s often willful and abrasive.  Why won’t you just kill it!”

     “It?  Is he calling Harper a thing, a pet?” Miss Simmons asked, sounding affronted for Harper.

     “No one is going to murder the boy for you, no matter what you say about him, Barris,” Nelson told him, keeping his eyes on the alien and his hand on his force lance.  “Not that you ever actually say anything useful about anything.  You talk in circles and say nothing and I’ve wasted enough time listening to it.”  Nelson strode fearlessly up to Barris and looked in squarely in his dead, black eyes.  “You will not touch my son again.  You will not trouble my crew further.  Go away.  Don’t come back.  I’m finished with you and so is everyone else here.”

     There was a buzz somewhere else in the room and the Andromeda announced, “The Maru is back.”

     Barris held Nelson’s eyes, but shook his head slightly.  “This is how it started.”  Then he vanished again in another puff of foul smelling smoke.

     “What was that all about?” Lee asked, sounding exasperated.

     Nelson turned back to face the others, not knowing what to say.  “We’ve just run out of time,” Hunt summed matters up grimly.  Nelson felt his face go hard.  He could only pray that whatever was about to happen wouldn’t be half as dire as what he was imagining.

* * *

     Beka barely got the Eureka Maru docked before she was flying out of her pilot’s seat and off the vessel.  Harper was home!  He was safe!  She was going to hug him until he begged her to let him breathe.  She couldn’t wait to do it.  Let Trance and Rommie handle their guests.  Beka just wanted to see Harper and know that this nightmare was over with finally.  She ran from the hanger to his quarters, where he was resting according to Rommie.  Beka didn’t wait for the entry buzzer to announce her.  She simply rushed in and then found herself frozen in her tracks and struck dumb by what she saw.

     A girl.  A girl asleep.  A girl asleep in Harper’s bed.  A girl asleep in Harper’s bed in Harper’s arms.  Beka stared.  She couldn’t make what she was seeing make any sort of sense.  How could there be a girl in Harper’s bed?  Harper talked about girls, he dreamed about girls, he lusted after girls.  Harper didn’t get girls.  He certainly didn’t get girls to come home with him.  In the five years that Beka had known him, Harper had never gotten one girl to come back to the Maru with him, not one.  Yet, there was one in Harper’s bed now of all times.  Beka scowled.  She’d been worried sick and Harper had been off getting laid?  She’d kill him herself!

     Realizing that someone else was there, Beka turned and saw Tyr looking at her, an amused expression on his face.  “What?  Did he sell tickets?” Beka asked heatedly.

     “A pleasure to see you again as well.  The boy is sleeping.  You should...” Tyr started, his voice much softer than usual.

     “Yeah, yeah,” she interrupted throwing a dismissive wave his way as she moved next to the bed, fuming.  “Get up, Harper!” she demanded, wanting an explanation and wanting it now.

     Harper moaned softly and shifted lethargically, cuddling up to his new bed buddy.  Beka scowled, wondering if Harper had been drinking again.  Usually he was not so slow to rise.  Growing up on Earth had left him a very skiddish, light sleeper.  He typically woke the instant anyone came into the same room as him, never letting them get as close as she was without coming to full wakefulness.  He didn’t smell of alcohol, but he’d been drinking, she decided, but why Tyr was here and attempting to cover for him was beyond her.  Why had Dylan let Harper bring some bar babe back with him?  He probably felt bad about Harper getting beat up so much lately and was cutting him some slack.  Beka wasn’t going to extend such courtesies.

     “Beka, really.  He’s...” Tyr tried again.  She wasn’t going to waste time letting him finish.  Why was he even here?

     “Now Harper!  Get up!” Beka shouted, kicking the bed for good measure.

     Harper opened his eyes a little and murmured, “Oh, hey Beka.  How’s it going?”

     “How’s it going?  Damn it, Harper!  You had us all worried sick!” Beka shouted at him.  That seemed to wake him up a little more and he started to sit up, which dumped his cuddle buddy unceremoniously off his shoulder.  She uttered a sleepy protest and he turned to her, saying something Beka couldn’t understand.  Beka rolled her eyes.  Harper and his dabbling in languages he had no hope of learning.  He’d probably told the girl that everything was all fish and to go back to laundry.  Tyr chimed in, seemingly speaking the same language Harper had attempted, probably correcting any confusion.  “Come with me, lover boy,” Beka said, grabbing Harper by the ear and yanking him out of bed.

     “Ow!  Beka!  Ow!  Come on!” Harper protested, but he came with her, not that she gave him much of a choice.  Beka was a little surprised that he had some pajama pants on, not that it would have mattered to her all that much if his ass had been as bare as his chest.  That was surprising in of itself.  Harper didn’t like people seeing his scars, so he almost always had a layers of shirts on.  Beka shook her head, thinking maybe the girl was in Harper’s bed out of pity for the beating Barris’ goon had given him and he was milking it by displaying evidence of old injuries.  She pulled him into the corridor then let him go as the door to his quarters shut behind them.  “Geez, Beka!  Can’t a guy sleep?” he complained, shifting his right arm, which rested in a sling.

     “Aw, did your little bed buddy tucker you out?  Look at you.  You’re all beat to hell and that doesn’t stop you from snuggling up to the first remotely female thing within easy reach.  Come on.  We’ll go to the medical deck and have Trance look you over,” Beka said impatiently.

     Harper rolled his eyes, then looked back at her, appearing peeved.  “I’ve been to medical, thanks, hence the cast.  And cool it with the less than flattering comments about Dom.  She hasn’t done anything to you.  I’m sorry you went and made a huge wasted effort on my behalf, but don’t take it out on her.”

     “Dom, huh?  Short for Dominatrix or something?  You’re sick, Harper,” Beka sneered at him.

     “Short for Dominique,” he replied, the peeved expression gaining a little fire.  “And I meant it.  You want to be ticked at me for getting beat up and kidnapped... and, gee, thanks for the concern and sympathy, Beka.  But hey, you might as well take a few shots at me.  Par for the course lately.  Don’t know why I expected anything different.  So, you want to be angry at me for getting the snot kicked out of me repeatedly for minding my own business, fine, but you leave Dom out of it.”

     Beka was about to lay into him about picking up women at inappropriate times when the person in question came out of Harper’s quarters, looking confused and not fully awake.  The door to the room remained opened and Beka could see Tyr looming nearby on the other side.  The girl, and she looked like a teenager, said something to Harper in some language that Beka couldn’t understand.  That Harper seemed to was unexpected, but the girl’s words made the angry expression ease mostly from his face and he lifted a hand to her arm and he squeezed it gently, replying as the girl cast a wary look at Beka.  Beka glared at her, daring the little thing to start something.  “Where did you get her anyway, Harper?  We going to have some angry father looking for you or what?” Beka asked.

     “Dom’s almost twenty four, her dad likes me, and she’s from Earth.  Actually, she was born near Boston, same as me, just... before me,” Harper told her, still sounding annoyed. 

     Beka’s brow knit none the less.  Dylan had gone on about how he thought Barris had moved Harper in time as well as through space.  The girl was from the past, which was the only way she could be younger than Harper and born before him.  This had the potential of being bad.  Really bad.  “Before?  How much before?” she asked suspiciously.

     Harper pursed his lips for a moment and put a possessive arm around the girl before saying, “Three thousand years.”

     “Three thousand years?!!!” Beka shouted back at him in shock as she looked at the girl again.  She was staring back, looking confused and possibly a little frightened.  Beka felt a spark of pity.  It wasn’t as if the tiny primitive thing could understand anything that was being said or what was going on around her.  No wonder she was clinging to Harper.  Being from that hell hole that he’d grown up in, she probably thought he was a primitive too, since Earth didn’t have space travel back then.  If her people were all as little as she was, she likely considered Harper to be big and strong and a good choice for a mate.  And knowing Harper, he hadn’t tried to dissuade her of that notion.  “Are you nuts?  She’s a primitive!  Does she understand that you’ve kidnapped her from her time and that...” Beka berated him.

     “I didn’t do any such thing!” Harper shouted back.  Again, the girl spoke, running a hand down Harper’s arm, looking up at him with concern.  Harper spoke to her again, hugging her to him, then turned his eyes back to Beka, frowning, the protective, possessive arm remained around his primitive.  “Look, you’re upsetting her, so can you cool it with all the yelling and accusations?  I didn’t drag Dom anywhere.  She’s a Marine Biologist, a Doctor of Marine Biology, a respected scientist, not some cave woman.  She knows where and when she is and she was cool with everything until you started freaking her out.”

     “So you shook the smartest monkey out of the tree,” Beka said dismissively.

     “Beka...” Harper snarled angrily.

     “She doesn’t speak Common, that’s for sure,” Beka cut him off.  “What monkey language is she chattering at you anyway?  Do you actually understand her or are you faking it as usual?  We need to go talk to Dylan and see about getting her back home.  I can’t believe you did this.  I hope the sex was good while it lasted.  Come on.”  She nodded for him to follow her curtly and started to turn towards Command, but Harper didn’t budge.  In fact, he looked back at the girl leaning against him and was saying something to her in soothing tones.  Beka let out another exasperated groan.  “Harper, it’s not like she actually understands you.”

     Harper glared at her.  “Of course she can,” he shot back.  “And it’s Earth Common.”

     Beka’s brow knit.  “What’s common on Earth?  Dragging women off to strange places.”

     “No.  The language we’re speaking,” Harper told her.  “It’s Earth Common.”

     Beka’s eyes narrowed.  “There’s no such thing.”

     Harper frowned and glanced over at Tyr, who looked distinctly put out, but said, “Earth Common, also known as English.  In the little girl’s day, it was spoken through most of North America, Australia, and England.  Because of commerce, it was used many other places as well.  After the bombardment of Earth at the Fall of the Commonwealth, English was the most widely spoken language of the survivors, so it became dubbed Earth Common at the time.  Most of the slave class of Earth speak it today.”

     Beka winced at the word ‘slave,’ never having thought of Harper that way.  He had been a dirty, skinny, sickly, battered, uncivilized kid, sure, but he hadn’t acted like he’d ever call anyone ‘Master.’  Harper didn’t talk about his life before joining the crew of the Maru much.  What little he said was depressing and Beka typically changed the subject fast, not wanting to deal with Harper’s past and the baggage associated with it.  It wasn’t like that was a problem.  Usually Harper shrugged off questions about his childhood.

     “Fine.  Whatever.  We still need to talk about this with Dylan,” Beka said impatiently.

     “He already knows about Dom and he wants her to stay, not go.  And I didn’t take her aboard in the first place.  Tyr did,” Harper replied defensively.

     “I did,” Tyr agreed, looking unrepentant about it.

     “Goody for you,” Beka sniped at him, then looked back to Harper and the girl clinging to him, still frowning.  Beka didn’t know what was going on, but women didn’t get cozy with Harper like that unless they or someone they were associated with wanted something from him.  Beka wanted him away from her so that she could get him to recognize that fact.  He wouldn’t do that while the girl was hanging all over him.  It didn’t escape Beka’s notice that the two of them were clothed despite sharing a bed.  Harper was probably all excited about promises that had been made, about sex he wasn’t going to get yet again.  And it wasn’t like Tyr went around procuring women for Harper.  Was he plotting something that he needed Harper’s help for?  Dylan was allowing this?  That didn’t sound like Dylan at all.  “I need you to look at something on the Maru,” Beka told Harper, thinking that would at least get him away from the girl for long enough for them to talk.

     Before Harper could respond, one of Rommie’s holograms appeared by them.  “Harper is on Medical Leave and should be in bed,” she declared.  She gave Harper a pointed look, nodding him towards his quarters as she crossed her arms over her chest.

     “I was in bed!  I was even sleeping!” Harper complained, starting to comply with the ship’s wishes.

     “And he’ll be there again if I can talk to him privately.  Give us a minute,” Beka insisted, waving everyone else away.

     Rommie scowled at her, but said, “All right.  You have one minute,” then she blinked out again.

     Harper didn’t look happy about it, but he said something to his little bed buddy and got her to go into his quarters with Tyr.  “Okay, Beka, what?” he said once the door was fully shut.

     “You’re not actually buying any of this are you?” Beka asked, but didn’t give him a chance to respond.  She knew that Rommie would be counting the seconds so she wasn’t going to waste any time.  “Tyr grabs some primitive girl and throws her at you, telling you she’s smart and warm for your form and you’re not asking him questions?  He wants something from you.  You do know that, right?”

     Harper gave her a look of confusion.  “What are you talking about, Beka?  I’ve known Dom for weeks...”

     “Which is impossible, since you’ve only been missing a few days,” Beka told him.  Didn’t he know that?  How bad had his head injury been?

     “Uh, yeah, here, but I’ve been in the past, where about a month went by,” Harper corrected her.  “I spent that whole time with Dom and we fell in love and we’re getting married.  Tyr doesn’t have a thing to do with it.  He just brought her aboard the Andromeda when that Barris guy took the submarine she works on, the Seaview, and brought it here.  We have the Seaview in Hanger Bay Seven, so if you don’t believe me...”

     “Harper, are you even listening to yourself?  You spent a month somewhere even though only a few days have gone by?  You’re in love with some primitive?”

     “Stop calling her that!” Harper said angrily.

     Beka didn’t acknowledge his words.  Harper thought every woman that even looked at him was a perfect goddess.  She could only imagine what he was thinking about one that had actually deigned to get snugly with him.  “Barris, the evil alien that had one of his lackeys beat the tar out you, throws you into the arms of this person and you think that she’s just great?  What’s wrong with you?  Did he scramble your brains when he whacked you in the head?  And is she this ‘master’ Barris has been talking about or is just another one of the slaves?”

     Harper let out a frustrated groan and ran his hand through his hair as he looked down.  “There are no slaves in America when I got sent to.  I worked at the Nelson Institute for Admiral Nelson, but he didn’t think he owned me or Dom or anybody else.  Ask him.  He’s with Dylan someplace.  He’s a cool guy and he thinks I’m brilliant and he treated me great, so can you just...”

     “Oh, sure he thinks your brilliant.  He’s a primitive too.  And I’ll bet he was just thrilled to have you working hard, making all sorts of things for him, things from the future that he would never have had without you.  He threw the girl at you to keep you pacified.  Harper, you’re smarter than this.  Some guy says he’s a Nelson and you think he’s that Nelson and you sign your soul away to him for a little praise and a piece of tail.  You’ve let yourself be fooled before, especially when a woman is in the mix, but this takes the cake.  When did you get this stupid?  What’s wrong with you?  Can’t you be two minutes out of my sight without landing yourself in trouble?” Beka demanded, not sure what or who she was angry with, just knowing that she was angry.

     Harper looked back up at her, a hurt expression all over his face.  “That’s what you think about me?  That I’m some stupid kid that needs his hand held?”  Beka suddenly regretted her words.  Plainly, she was the one that wasn’t thinking at the moment.  Why hadn’t she just kicked him while she was at it?

     “The minute is up,” Andromeda announced, her hologram appearing by them before Beka could respond.

     “Not now!” Beka shouted at the hologram.

     “Sure, now.  I’m done,” Harper snapped, hurt and anger dripping from the words.  He didn’t turn to his quarters, though, but pushed past Beka and marched off into the ship.

     “Seamus...” Beka started to call after him.  Go after him, she told herself, but she couldn’t seem to move.

     “Leave me alone, Valentine!” he shouted back, not pausing his furious march.

     “Harper, you’re supposed to be in bed,” the hologram told him firmly.  He waved a dismissive hand back at her, still not stopping.  “Harper!  You’re under orders!  Harper!”  The hologram disappeared and reappeared in front of Harper, but he strode straight through it, Rommie letting out an indignant squeak when he did.  He turned off, out of Beka’s sight, and she closed her eyes and clenched her fists.  She couldn’t believe she’d just done that.

     “Go after him!” her brain shrieked at her.  She didn’t move, though, couldn’t make herself move.  This was how it worked between the two of them, her pride told her.  She gave Harper grief, but she never apologized.  She was the boss.  She was always right, even when she was wrong.  Harper would cool down and forget about the whole thing and later they would be laughing together, but not about this.  No, what had just happened would never be mentioned again.

     Then Harper’s cabin door opened and Tyr came out demanding, “What did you do?”

     “We had a fight,” Beka said with a shrug that was far less concerned than she felt.  “We fight all the time.  He’ll get over it.”

     Tyr rolled his eyes and growled, “If he lives that long.”  He turned into the room and said something to the girl, who was out of sight at the moment while panic started pushing all of Beka’s other confused emotions out of the way.

     “Why wouldn’t he...” she started.

     “Barris wants him dead now, not just gone.  I was guarding him so that didn’t come to pass,” Tyr snarled at her then shouted, “Andromeda!  Where is Harper?”

     “Judging by his present course, he’s heading to Obs.  Admiral Nelson is there at the moment.  I’ll inform him,” Andromeda replied, not bothering to materialize.

     “Wait!” Beka said, not liking the sound of that at all.  These people were the ones confusing Harper, plainly promising him things they weren’t going to give him.  The last thing she needed was for this Admiral Nelson person talking to Harper while he was half awake and upset.  “Where’s Dylan?  Dylan should go.”

     “Dylan is talking to the Lechak Bon that you brought here, trying to see if they can tell us anything helpful about Barris.  And he’s too far away.  The Admiral will be with Harper in a few seconds,” the Andromeda told her.

     “Have him bring Harper back here,” Tyr instructed her as the little girl appeared again.  Beka glowered at her.  This was all her fault, she told herself as the primitive tugged at Tyr’s arm and chattered at him.

     “Who is this Admiral Nelson?  Who is this, for that matter?  Tell Harper’s little playmate...” Beka started heatedly.

     “Admiral Harriman Nelson,” Tyr interrupted her sternly, his dark eyes suddenly boring into her, “the founder of the Nelson Science Consortium, one of the most revered Earth scientists of all time, and, as it happens, Harper’s most recent employer and mentor.  This,” he nodded to the little girl worriedly ringing the hem of her shirt next to him, “is Doctor Dominique Babin, later to become Doctor Dominique Charles, first Earth ambassador to the Commonwealth, Harper’s beloved and betrothed, Admiral Nelson’s second in matters of science aboard his vessel, the Seaview, which is currently in Hanger Bay Seven.  They are part of Harper’s new family, which he gathered around himself when he thought himself abandoned to the past.”

     This news was startling, but Beka found herself letting out a derisive snort, saying, “As if we’d give up on finding him!  It’s only been a few days...”

     “For him, it wasn’t,” Tyr corrected her.  “It was several weeks.  Harper is a very immediate person.  You know this about him.  He is used to losing those he cares about and having to start anew.  That is what he did.  Admiral Nelson plainly looks on the boy with fatherly affection.  Doctor Babin loves him.  He will not willingly part company with them.  Dylan was hoping to convince Harper and his betrothed to stay with us, at least for a while, when the Seaview and her crew return to their proper time.  Considering how he much better he was treated there, I should think that is not a very strong possibility.”

     Tyr’s words spun in Beka’s head.  Harper would leave?  He would actually go away into the past and never return?  He couldn’t do that!  Didn’t he know that they were only being good to him as long as he was useful to them?  “He’s staying,” Beka declared, giving the girl another glare.  Beka didn’t care who the little piece of tail was going to be.  Harper was not going anywhere with her.  She’d cast him aside as soon as the trap being laid for him snapped shut and he’d be alone, lost and stuck in the past, a slave just like Barris had said.  Beka wasn’t going to let that happen.  “I’ll go talk sense to him.”

     Tyr frowned at her.  “I think perhaps you’ve said enough to Harper for the time being.”  He spoke briefly to the girl again, then looked up and said, “Andromeda?  Am I needed elsewhere?”

     A hologram appeared and said, “No.  Harper is with the Admiral.”  She said something to the girl, then looked to Beka, her expression cross.  Beka said nothing as Tyr ushered the girl back into Harper’s quarters, the two of them talking the girl’s monkey language, and the door shut again.  Beka was about to say something to Andromeda, but the hologram beat her to it.  “Harper was hurt badly yesterday and his personal resources have been severely taxed.  Dylan has ordered that Harper be allowed to rest quietly for the next few days.  I have asked the Admiral to bring him back to his quarters once he’s calmed Harper down.  Dylan and I don’t want Harper to leave when we find a way to get the Seaview and her crew home.  He won’t stay without Doctor Babin, so don’t upset either of them again.”  With that, she winked out.

     Beka did a slow burn for a few seconds, then something occurred to her and she smiled.  She had something that Harper needed at the moment, something that would make him forget being yelled at.  It might even endear her to Harper’s little love interest, though Beka didn’t actually care what his monkey girl thought.  She turned from his quarters and headed at a quick walk back to the Maru.  She’d straighten all this out and things would go back to normal.  If she had to put up with Harper acting all lovey dovey with some primitive to get that, it was fine.  It wasn’t like it would last and Beka wouldn’t even tell Harper she’d told him so when it all fell apart and he came running to her for sympathy like he always did.  Beka nodded to herself, thinking that things couldn’t get back to normal soon enough.

* * *



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