* * *
Nelson watched as Barris moved casually forward and laughed despite
the weapon’s fire being rained down on him.
Lee and Miss Simmons were gone, no telling where.
Nelson could only hope they were safe.
It was certain the rest of them weren’t.
Nelson moved between Harper, who was sheltering Doctor Babin with
his own body, and Barris. He
was careful not to move in front of Harper’s very active force lance.
Harper was whole again, better than healed, the scars from his
abusive childhood somehow erased as well.
It would be wrong for him to come to harm so quickly after that
miracle, but Nelson didn’t know how to stop any of them from being hurt
by Barris, who was seemingly indestructible and unstoppable.
There had to be something they could do, Nelson thought, but for
the life of him, he didn’t know what that something might be.
“You must listen,” the leader of the aliens pleaded with
Barris. “You must turn from
this path. The harm you’ve
brought on others, that you seek to bring on those gathered here, it will
turn on you. It will destroy
you if you don’t stop! Let
us help you.” Barris let
out another of his insane laughs and kept coming forward, looking even
“Not cutting it, Nowan,” Hunt grunted.
“The lances are going to run out of charge,” Harper
pointed out. Nelson had been
worrying about that. His own
was growing quite warm.
“Cease fire!” Hunt ordered and the weapons fell silent
almost as one.
At almost that exact instant, Anasazi tackled Barris from
behind, the two of them tumbling to the floor uncomfortably close to where
they stood. “Move!”
Nelson ordered Harper. The
boy blinked at him silently, not seeming to know what to do as he glanced
to where Anasazi wrestled with Barris.
“You need to get Dominica somewhere safer,” Nelson reasoned
with him, fearful that Harper would want to stay to help his friend.
The two young people were in far more danger of being harmed than
the big Nietzschean was.
Bringing Doctor Babin into the mix got Harper’s attention
though. “Come on,” he
said, grabbing Doctor Babin’s hand and pulling her away.
They’d barely gone two steps when Barris was suddenly in front of
them, making Harper draw to a quick halt and take a step back.
“Little slave, you caused all this,” Barris was snarling
at the boy as he loomed menacingly forward.
“I didn’t do anything to you!” Harper shouted back,
sounded equally frightened and indignant.
Barris roared in fury at him, reaching out for him, but
before anyone else could react, the alien girl had rushed between them.
She grabbed Barris and threw him away from Harper as if he weighed
no more than a small, rubber ball. Nelson
grabbed Harper and Dominica by the arms and guided them to Hunt’s side.
“Barris wants Seamus,” Nelson told the starship captain.
“It’s all he can think about, getting at the boy.”
“I didn’t do anything!
I didn’t!” Harper plead his innocence.
Hunt nodded with a frown.
“We know, Harper. Barris is insane,” he told the boy, then looked to his crew
as they drew near. “We need
to protect Harper,” he said.
“I was doing my best in that regard,” Anasazi pointed
out, cracking his neck and looking ready to give aid to the alien girl,
not that she looked to need his help at the moment.
Anasazi’s expression was cold and Nelson knew that if he could
find a way to do it, Barris would no longer be a threat to anyone.
In that instant, Nelson was glad the man was a killer.
The alien’s spokesman, Nowan, grabbed Anasazi’s arm and
brought him to a temporary halt as the alien man that hadn’t healed
Harper moved into action. “Barris
is of our world. Maybe that
is the answer being sought. Let
us try to stop this,” he said.
Barris was ranting in another language all the while, then
as the second alien neared him, he shouted, “This is how it happened!
Stop protecting the slave! Don’t...”
That was went the second alien reached where the girl fought to
hold Barris still. Barris
blinked free of her grasp and was standing before Nelson an instant later.
Nelson began to move forward, not about to let Barris touch Harper,
who was directly behind him, and Nelson heard a shout and realized Hunt
and Anasazi were coming at Barris too.
That was when the world went white.
Nelson didn’t know what happened.
He’d been standing on the Andromeda with everyone else, then he
couldn’t see and got dizzy and fell to one knee.
Blinking fast, Nelson found he wasn’t blind, just temporarily
dazzled by what must have been a fantastic flash of light.
He felt hands fumble across his back and heard Harper’s voice
softly ask, “Boss? You
okay? What was that?
Where are we? Trance?” Nelson
shook his head hard once and looked around as Harper helped him get back
on his feet. They were no
longer on the Andromeda, they were on a planet, in middle of what looked
to be a village of some sort. Aliens
like the ones that had been aboard Hunt’s ship were all around them,
staring owlishly at them. The
strange thing was that the aliens seemed drawn into two groups, some
rather belligerent looking ones to one side, some that appeared far more
mild to the other side of the square where everyone from the corridor had
suddenly been relocated to. Even
stranger was the sky. Bluish
black clouds moved across the sky with green lightning flashing between
them. Nelson got uneasy
feeling looking up at those clouds, like there was something unnatural
about them, even though it was impossible for him to know what was natural
for this world.
Trance was shrinking down to the ground, looking up at the
sky with a disquieting expression, murmuring something over and over, not
reacting to Captain Valentine’s efforts to calm her.
“What’s she saying?” Doctor Babin asked as Hunt bent to
Trance as well.
“Something about paradoxes.
I don’t...” Harper said worriedly, his voice trailing off.
“Nowan... “ Hunt started uncertainly as he looked up
from his young, alien medic.
The alien spokesman moved forward at that point, speaking
quickly to the people gathered around them.
“What’s happening?” Harper whispered nervously as he and
Doctor Babin moved in close to Nelson on his left side.
Harper looked nervously up at the clouds.
“That doesn’t look right.
How did we get here? Where
“The alien man, I think he copied Barris’ ability to
teleport somehow and he brought us here,” Nelson said softly.
Captain Valentine began to speak to Hunt, Trance still huddling
before them, still babbling. The android taking up a defensive position before them,
Anasazi moving to mirror her on their other side, Nowan’s two companions
that had confronted Barris on the Andromeda taking up the other compass
points. They looked nervous,
as did their friend that had healed Harper.
Why were they concerned? It
seemed like they were home and among their own people.
The less aggressive looking group of aliens began to whisper
amongst themselves at Nowan’s continued dialog, but the leader of the
more hostile looking group was looking at their small, vulnerable group
with interest. Nelson
ardently wished he could understand what was being said.
“Where is Barris?” Doctor Babin asked quietly.
It was then that Nelson realized that Barris didn’t seem to be
with them. That didn’t last, though, because he appeared suddenly by
Nowan and threw him aside, then began ranting at the alien people gathered
around them, at the leader of the angry group especially. That person was giving Barris a leery look, then snapped his
fingers and one of his group came forward and threw his arms out toward
the new arrivals on the scene.
Suddenly Barris’ unintelligible ranting resolved into,
“... not what you want! You
need to turn away from them! You
need to go back to your huts and....”
“I do as I will, not as you do, foreigner,” the
aggressive group’s leader said, then moved to step around Barris, who
was suddenly in front of him trying to stop him from going forward.
Barris blocked his path. The
alien glared at him, then snapped his fingers again.
Two more of his group came forward and grabbed Barris, who threw
them off. Several more of the group came forward and a fight broke out,
not that the leader of the group concerned himself with it.
He stepped imperiously around the tussle and approached the new
comers. Rommie moved to block
his path as he drew near and he gave her a withering look.
“You can understand?” he asked as his eyes swept over their
“Yes,” Nelson said, wondering how that was possible.
“We want no trouble.
Our arrival here was accidental,” Hunt added quickly.
“Hmmm,” the alien hummed, looking them over like a lion
looks over the impalas at a watering hole.
“So that other one was saying.”
One of the other group came forward now, Nowan coming with
him. “We are the Children
of the Maker,” this alien said, bowing slightly to them as he spoke.
“Our brother, Nowan, has told us that you are travelers from
space. How is that possible?
We have seen space travelers before, but they had vessels to carry
them between stars. Where is
The first alien’s eyes glittered with interest.
The second alien looked suddenly concerned.
“Barris, these beings are our guests,” he cautioned the first
softly. Nelson felt his eyes
go wide as they snapped to the belligerent looking alien being confronted.
Barris? Oh, that
didn’t sound good at all! “You
and your Lechak Bon should go and... “
”Your opinion means nothing to me,” this new Barris said
dismissively, still looking over them over with hunger in his eyes.
Rommie stepped directly in front of him, her dark eyes locking with
interesting. You have
strength? You do not shy away
from confrontation?” Barris asked, smiling slightly.
It was not a reassuring smile.
Rommie was unmoved. “I
was made for confrontation,” she said, her tone full of warning.
“You would do well to step away,” Anasazi told him as he
moved next to the android, the alien woman moving to her other side as the
alien man that had transported them to this place fell into place just
behind his companion to her other side.
Instead of looking worried, Barris’ smile deepened and became
predatory. Nelson drew his
force lance, as did Hunt, the two of them moving together into position in
front of Harper and Doctor Babin. Bad
things were about to happen, very bad things.
“Harper, don’t even think about it,” Captain Valentine
warned the boy as she drew her own weapon, but stayed near Trance, who
Nelson realized he could also suddenly understand.
Her murmurs of paradoxes were unnerving.
“But...” Harper tried to argue.
“Let us handle it, Harper,” Hunt ordered, leaving no
room for argument. That was
when a scream rang out from where Barris was fighting with the Lechak Bon.
Several of the aliens were now on the ground, still and covered
with what Nelson assumed was blood. Barris,
the one that they were used to, was surrounded by more of the aliens,
still fighting, but Nelson couldn’t see why he was.
Why didn’t he just teleport away?
“How did the girl know my name?” the new Barris asked,
not seeming to care that his minions were being beaten and possibly
killed. “Where is your
vessel? I would leave this
place. Who is in charge?”
“I am,” Nelson said simultaneously with Hunt.
They glanced at each other. Hunt
backed down for the moment. “There
is no vessel. Not here on
your planet, in any case,” Nelson told him.
“We were brought here by other means.”
Barris said, his black eyes regarding Nowan’s companions, then the
struggling Barris for a moment. “Not
by him,” Barris said, nodding back over his shoulder.
“No, he would not have brought you.
No matter. I’ve seen
movers. The problem is
knowing where one wants to move to. A
vessel would be better. Who
built your vessel? Your
slave?” Barris’ eyes
moved to where Harper was, which made Nelson raise his force lance into
the being’s direction. The
other Barris had done enough damage to the boy.
“A stick. How...
quaint. You would risk injury to protect a slave?”
“He isn’t a slave.
He’s my son,” Nelson told him, his words little more than a
“Appreciate the sentiment, Boss, but...” Harper started,
sounding more than a bit worried.
“Shh,” Doctor Babin hushed him.
“Nowan, I think this would be a good time to go back to
the Andromeda,” Hunt said.
“Tobaz,” Nowan prompted his companion, obviously sharing
“I don’t know how to.
I concentrated on sending Barris to where he had come from and we
wound up here,” Nowan’s friend said mournfully.
“I didn’t mean to move us all!”
Barris’ eyes moved from speaker to speaker.
“You would send me somewhere, mover?
I think not,” he told Tobaz, then shot a narrow look back at
Nelson. “Let us be clear.
My time on this world is wasted.
You space aliens asked if we sought to join the larger community of
the universe. I do and so do
those that follow me. We are
ready to leave immediately.”
Nelson frowned at him.
“Then you had better start building your own ship, because we
aren’t taking you anywhere.”
Barris smiled, the same shark-like smile that his
counterpart had given Nelson whenever a threat or violence was
forthcoming, and he said, “That would be perfect.” Threw a hand out towards Rommie and Anasazi and they were
swept aside by an invisible force. His
other hand shot out and he grabbed Nowan’s incredibly strong, female
companion by the wrist just as she began to throw a punch at his head. She screamed and tried to pull away from him, but the two of
them began to glow and she seemed to shrink before him.
“Barris, no!” the leader of the Children of the Maker
exclaimed, starting forward.
“I’ll swallow you, too, slave to the Maker,” Barris
snarled, tossing the limp girl aside. She didn’t move. Nelson
couldn’t tell if she was even breathing.
Tobaz looked hard at Barris and they locked eyes, both of
them beginning to glow. “Ah,
not a mover. A mimic,”
Barris said with a malevolent sneer.
“You are worthless to me. I
don’t copy. I own.
My followers know this. They
give me a piece of them so I don’t take all of what they are.
I don’t have one gift, I have many, but unlike you, they are mine
“Don’t!” the other Barris pleaded.
“Turn away before it’s too late!”
Tobaz looked frightened, but he began to move forward on the
Barris confronting him. Barris
suddenly disappeared, then reappeared in front of Nelson.
He flicked a hand toward Hunt, knocking him away from them.
“How do I build a space vessel, foreigner?” he demanded, a hand
shooting out toward Nelson.
“No!” came Harper’s voice and Nelson felt himself
yanked hard out of Barris’ reach and back onto the ground.
Doctor Babin was by him, helping him up as Harper stood defensively
before them, holding up empty hands and making calming motions.
“Look, I can tell you how to build a ship.
You don’t have to hurt anyone else.
Just... just tell everyone to calm down and I’ll show you,
okay?” Harper said pleadingly.
“Harper, don’t...” Hunt started as he got back on his
feet and began to move toward them.
“Oh, do, Harper. Do,” Barris said with another smile. Again his hand shot out and he grabbed Harper by the head.
Harper let out a squeak of alarm, then a choking sound as Barris’
fingers sank into his head. Doctor Babin screamed as Harper went limp and silent, hanging
from Barris’ hand, the alien’s fingers buried fully in his skull.
Nelson bellowed, starting forward, not sure what he could do but needing
to do something. Barris had
killed Seamus! He’d killed
his son even though the boy had told him that he would give Barris what he
wanted to protect the rest of them!
Suddenly the other Barris was in front of him, their noses
practically touching. “I
told you that you would be sorry,” he sneered, then the world flashed
Nelson found himself standing in the Control Room of the
Seaview, Lee and Chip standing just in front of him.
Doctor Babin made a sound of despair and collapsed to her knees by
him as Lee and Chip began to react to their sudden appearance.
“Dom!” Miss Simmons cried, rushing to her friend’s side.
Doctor Babin sank into her embrace, weeping inconsolably. Nelson felt himself starting to shake as Lee came forward as
well, looking distressed. Quiet
murmurs sounded hesitantly from the other men in the room.
“Harper,” Lee said in alarm.
“Where’s Harper?” Nelson shook his head, unable to find words, grief swallowing
him. Lee’s face registered
shock and dismay. “No,”
Lee breathed out. “Oh,
The Control Room was silent then except for Doctor Babin’s
heartbroken sobs, no one else moving or speaking.
Something in Nelson told him he should do something, but he
couldn’t summon the will to. Seamus
was dead. His son was dead,
senselessly murdered and he couldn’t do anything about it, not even
confront Barris. He would
never know what happened to Hunt and his crew.
Something cold filled his heart and he thought that if there was
any justice in the universe, Hunt would make both incarnations of Barris
pay. Nothing Hunt could do to
Barris would be enough. Those
thoughts failed under the weight of his grief and he moved to stroke
Doctor Babin’s head. Seamus
was gone and nothing could ever make that right.
“NO!!!” Nelson had shouted.
Dylan was too shocked to react at first to the new Barris sinking
his fingers into Harper’s head. Then
the other version of Barris appeared suddenly before Nelson and said
something just before Nelson and Doctor Babin vanished.
In almost that same instant, a blur of movement came from the other
side of the Barrises. Suddenly Tyr was there, making a leaping grab for Harper and
pulling him away from Barris. As
they tumbled away from the alien, Tyr twisted so that he hit the ground
cradling his limp charge against him.
They skidded to a stop a fair amount of distance from Barris,
certainly out of easy reach.
“I wasn’t done with him,” Barris stated petulantly,
taking a step after Tyr. Rommie
grabbed his shoulder before he could take another and she hit him hard,
snapping his head back so forcefully that Dylan half expected it to snap
off. He recovered, though,
and caught the next fist that came his at him, scowling.
Rommie countered by snapping a kick up into Barris’ chin, driving
his head violently back again, following that with a knee to the groin and
a leg sweep. At least, Dylan
was sure it was meant to be a leg sweep, but Barris caught her leg with
his free hand and upended her.
no. Breathe, kiddo,
breathe,” Beka was saying frantically, drawing Dylan’s attention that
way. Tyr had Harper laid out
on his back and was tilting the kid’s head back, blowing air into his
lungs an instant later. Beka
was by Harper, Trance still huddling on the ground just behind her, still
looking to be in shock. There
weren’t any visible wounds on Harper, though Dylan didn’t know how
that was possible, but it was pretty obvious that no matter how Barris’
fingers had gotten into Harper’s head, they had done plenty of damage
once they got there. One of
the Children of the Maker was coming quickly over to them.
Dylan was alarmed until he realized who it was.
“I can help,” Nowan’s friend Wemrik said as he knelt
by Harper and laid a hand on his head. Harper’s body jerked and Tyr drew back as Harper let out of
choking cough and curled up on his side away from everyone with a
“Thank you. It will be much easier to plunder his mind with him alive,”
Barris said. Dylan looked
back just in time to see him throw a hand in the direction of the helpless
kid, bowling everyone away from him once more.
He had thrown Rommie away from him again, but she was getting up a
lot slower than the last time. As
Barris took another step toward where Harper lay helpless, Dylan felt fury
overflow in him. Both
incarnations of Barris had been given free reign long enough.
He started to move in to intercept Barris when the spikey faced
version suddenly appeared, beating him to it.
“You’re doing this all wrong!
Captain Hunt would have welcomed you and your world into his
Commonwealth. With your
powers, you could take control and rule all. You still might be able to.
Take Hunt, his luck, his destiny and use them. The slave is meaningless.
It has no powers for you to absorb,” he tried to reason with what
Dylan assumed to be his younger self.
Of course, Barris didn’t sound reasonable.
He sounded insane.
“The little slave has a lot to give me,” Barris told
himself with a shark-like smile. “I
only touched his mind for a moment, but I saw many things of use.
Space vessels. weapons, time machines, machines that mimic the
‘gifts’ of the so called ‘Maker.’
So many things that it was astounding.
I only learned a little, but next time, I will stay in his mind
until I drink it dry. Of
course, that wasn’t the only thing I saw. I also saw how powerful you
are.” With that, he leapt at his other self, hands outstretched.
Barris caught his wrists and threw his younger self away from him.
“You only delay the inevitable,” Barris said, flying back at
himself, hands outstretched.
Dylan took advantage of the distraction and rushed over to
where Harper lay shivering, whimpering softly on the ground.
“Harper,” he said, but Harper didn’t respond to his name or
Dylan touching his cheek. He
felt cold to the touch and looked to be in shock.
Considering that he’d had fingers rummaging through his skull a
few moments ago, Harper was lucky to be alive.
Dylan scooped the unresponsive kid up onto his shoulder as Beka and
Tyr were limping back in his direction.
Dylan moved away from the struggling aliens, looking up worriedly.
Sickly green lightning lanced through the sky and the ground shook
as a bolt of it came down near them.
It was like this world was being made ill by there being two
Barrises on her and now that they were in contact with each other, she was
making her displeasure known.
Dylan looked back to where the two Barrises grappled as he
moved to Trance. “Paradox...
Barris is a paradox... No wonder I couldn’t see his future... No wonder
he didn’t belong...” Trance was murmuring, repeating the words over
and over. She didn’t react
to Dylan touching her either, just kept murmuring her strange mantra.
“Listen to me!” the spikey Barris was shouting, holding
his counterpart’s wrists, barely keeping his hands away from him.
“Surrender your power!” the Lechak Bon Barris shouted
back, straining to touch his future self.
“What happens if Barris number one absorbs Barris number
two?” Beka asked nervously.
“I have the feeling we don’t want to find out,” Dylan
“How do we stop it?” Tyr asked.
Dylan shook his head, not even wanting to think about getting near
the struggling pair and knowing that their weapons were useless.
“Paradox... Paradox...” Trance murmured, somehow being
heard over the almost constant thunder.
Dylan watched the Barrises struggle, unable to look away.
Maybe the Admiral and his crew were lucky.
Wherever they’d been sent to, it had to be better than here.
Maybe they’d been sent home.
That made sense. After
all, Nelson’s life was pretty well documented and he didn’t vanish
suddenly never to return. Dylan
wanted to be anywhere other than where he was, but it seemed he and his
crew were doomed to watch things play out.
As he thought that, the Lechak Bon Barris pushed forward and
touched the spikey Barris on the cheek.
Lightning struck right next to them as that Barris howled and
lashed forward, head butting his former self, driving him back, bloodying
his forehead with his facial ridges. The younger Barris didn’t seem to care about the black
blood dribbling down his face. “I
will take you!” the Lechak Bon shrieked, lurching back at his older
“I am you!” Barris finally admitted with a forlorn wail,
still holding him off.
That evil smile formed on the Lechak Bon’s face.
“You will be,” he said, driving forward.
The other Barris swung around, pulling his younger self off
balance. As he did, the
Lechak Bon stumbled, losing his balance, falling before himself.
“Stop!” the older Barris screamed as he stood over
himself, looking more insane than ever.
“Never!” the younger Barris shrieked back starting back
at his older self, totally out of control.
Barris grabbed his Lechak Bon self by the head even as the
other grabbed him by the throat. He twisted, hard, the sound of snapping bones echoing through
the village center, somehow louder than the storm now raging around them.
“Why wouldn’t you listen!” Barris shrieked at his younger
self as he shook the body. “Why
won’t you ever listen?” Lightning
danced all around him and Dylan watched in horror as the Barris that had
stood on his Command Deck what seemed like eons ago absorbed his younger
self until there was nothing left. He
straightened and looked back at the crumpled heaps and cowering vestiges
of his Lechak Bon followers. “You
are in me. You are what I
am,” Barris declared, pointing an accusing finger at them.
Lightning struck him and leapt from his finger, forking out to
strike all of those before him. The
Lechak Bon screamed as their bodies twisted to become like Barris’.
Everything began to blur as Barris moved forward into the middle of
his writhing minions. “We
are powerful. We will rule
all. We only need to unmake our past first,” was the last thing
that Dylan heard Barris say before a flash lightning crashed down between
them and Dylan recoiled, temporarily blinded.
When Dylan blinked vision back into his eyes, he found
himself back on the Command Deck of the Andromeda.
“What...” he murmured, not understanding how he had gotten
here. His crew was all
accounted for, which was at least one good thing. Harper moaned against his back and Dylan laid him down
carefully on the deck. “Harper,”
Dylan said worriedly as Harper shifted restlessly before him. “Harper, can you hear me?”
Harper’s eyes opened wide and stared up at him for a
second, then closed again as he grimaced and let out another moan.
“I feel sick,” he moaned.
“I can still feel that guy’s fingers in my brain!”
Dylan almost laughed he was so relieved, but that didn’t last,
not when Harper tried to push himself up onto an elbow as he opened his
eyes again, saying, “Dom. Where’s Dom? She’s
not hurt or...”
“Oh, Seamus,” Beka said, suddenly by him, helping him to
sit up, stroking his face gently. “She’s gone, kiddo.
“Gone?” Harper replied, looking stricken.
“Barris... killed her?” The
expression on his face was so devastated that Dylan thought the kid would
die from grief on the spot.
“No,” Trance told him, seemingly back to herself as she
crouched by Harper. “No,
she’s back where she belongs. When
the paradox happened, we all snapped back to where we belong.”
Harper gazed into her eyes, shaking his head, looking lost.
“No,” he told her. “No,
I was supposed to go with her. I
was supposed to... I belong
with her... We decided... No, this is wrong... I have to...”
He rose quickly to his feet, looking determined.
“I can fix it. The
Admiral had a time traveling device.
It was complicated but I think I remember most of it.
Where are my tools?”
“You’re in shock, Seamus.
You need to go the Medical,” Beka tried to tell him in soothing
“Yes. Let me
take a look at you in Medical. You
were hurt and...” Trance tried to back her up.
Harper got a furious expression on his face.
“No! You’re not listening again!
She thinks I’m dead and she’s upset like I just was and you
don’t care! You just
don’t want me to leave! You
don’t care that I was happy with her!
I’m getting her back! Now
where the hell are my damned tools?!” he demanded, making the two women
fall back in the face of his anger.
“Storage bay twelve,” Trance said meekly.
Harper gave each of them a glare, then stomped off silently.
“Oh, Seamus,” Beka sighed out, sounding heartbroken for him.
“What about Barris?” Tyr asked.
“We have nothing that can destroy him.
If he returns...”
“He won’t,” Trance declared emphatically.
“How can you know that?” Dylan asked.
“He’s replenished his army.
He could show up any second ready for...”
“He can’t,” Trance told him.
“He didn’t replenish his army, they’re the same army.
His future self killed his past self and some how survived the
experience, maybe because he absorbed himself, maybe because of his time
traveling powers. I don’t know. He
shouldn’t even exist, but he does.
That’s what warped the space around the Children of the Maker’s
world. That’s what twisted
Barris up so bad. Whatever
was supposed to happen to him, however he got this way, he changed it all
by killing himself in the past. He’s
caught in a loop that he’s trying to break, but he can’t because
he’s trapped. He just keeps
going around and around and around. We’ve
seen the end of the cycle and Barris is back at the beginning.
He can’t cause any more trouble.”
Dylan didn’t know if he fully understood what Trance was
saying, but he frowned. “He’s
done enough damage,” he said, then looked to Rommie.
“Where is Harper?”
“Almost to storage bay twelve,” she replied.
“And Admiral Nelson never published papers on a time travel
device. He would have if
he’d invented one. He was
“Yea, I know,” Dylan said quietly.
“What do we do?” Beka asked.
“Harper can’t make a time machine.
He would have made one for you ages ago if he knew how.”
Dylan closed his eyes, remembering the failed matter
transporter that had worked as a time machine just long enough for him to
go back and say goodbye to Sarah. Harper
had fought with the device for ages, nearly making himself sick trying to
make it work so that Dylan could go back to Sarah and take her here to be
with him. He could never work
out how to make the remote stabilizer that would have allowed a person
from the past to come forward to the Andromeda’s present work properly.
Dylan had ordered him to stop finally.
Harper had been devastated by his failure and Dylan had felt
required to go out of his way to show the kid that there was no ill will
between the two of them over it.
“I know,” he said quietly, knowing that Harper was
feeling what he had felt when the realization that everyone he knew and
loved was long dead and that he would never see them again.
“This is bad. This is so bad,” Beka said worriedly. “I’ll go talk to him.”
“He won’t listen. Not now. It’s
too soon,” Dylan told her.
“You should talk to him, then.
Or Tyr. He wasn’t
mad at either of you,” Beka said, grasping at straws.
Tyr shook his head. “He’s
mourning. He just doesn’t know it yet.
Let him be,” he said, then walked away.
“Bastard,” Beka snarled at his back.
“Dylan, he shouldn’t be alone.
Please. You know how
he gets when he’s upset like this.”
She meant suicidal, but Dylan knew she didn’t want to say it
aloud, probably not wanting to tempt fate.
According to the Andromeda, Harper had several times come very
close to trying to take his own life when he’d been infested with Magog.
She and Tyr had somehow talked him out of actually doing it.
Much as he would like to say otherwise, he and Beka just hadn’t
known how to help him and had been fearful of their efforts would push him
over the edge. Dylan knew
neither of them was equipped to do any better of a job now.
“Rommie, go keep an eye on him.
Give him whatever he wants if we have it.
Don’t let him hurt himself,” Dylan told the ship’s avatar.
Rommie nodded and headed off at a quick walk in silence.
“Harper should be in Medical.
Barris had his hand in his brain,” Trance said.
“If he collapses, we’ll bring him there.
If we force him to do anything right now, it will only make matters
worse,” Dylan said.
“So, you’re not going to do anything either,” Beka
snapped at him.
“Rommie’s watching him.
We need to give him a little space right now, let him work things
out,” Dylan said.
Beka rolled her eyes. “Men!”
she exclaimed, making the word sound like a curse.
With that, she walked away too.
Trance started to follow, but Dylan caught her by the arm
and held her back. She turned
to stare at him, but he didn’t say anything until Beka was gone.
“Can you do anything?” Dylan asked, not knowing what Trance was
capable of. He had the
feeling that it was a lot more than he could ever imagine.
Trance shook her head.
“No. Harper came
back here with us because he’s supposed to be here.”
“He might differ with that opinion,” Dylan said, then
scowled. “Damn Barris.”
“He’s pretty much done that to himself.
He’s trapped forever in a hell of his own making,” Trance said.
“I suppose,” Dylan sighed, running a hand back through
his hair. He wouldn’t have
minded landing a few punches. Breaking
Barris’ face seemed inadequate considering the pain he’d caused
everyone. Poor Harper, he
thought with another sigh. The
worst part was all of this seemed so meaningless.
Why had Barris singled out Harper in the first place?
If he had left the kid alone, his past self wouldn’t have known
about his powers and would probably never have attacked him.
He could at least understand Barris’ motives as far as he was
concerned. Perhaps Barris had
hoped to win him and the Admiral over to change his own destiny.
Dylan couldn’t be absolutely sure about that.
According to Trance, they would never see Barris again.
Dylan glanced at Trance as he put his hand down from his
head. Even if she knew
something, she might not tell him if she deemed it to be ‘for his own
good’ not to know. She also
probably wouldn’t help in any efforts to get Harper back together with
Doctor Babin, since Trance had stated that he was where he belonged.
Dylan didn’t want Harper to go, but his being here instead of
with Doctor Babin was wrong. He
only wished there was something he could do about it, but there wasn’t.
“There’s nothing we can do.
This is how things are supposed to be,” Trance stated as if she
were reading his mind.
“But this isn’t right,” Dylan told her.
“Harper was an innocent bystander in all this insanity with
Barris. He probably saved
Admiral Nelson’s life. He
doesn’t deserve to be punished this way.”
“He needs to be here,” Trance insisted.
“Until you can find a way to defeat the Abyss, this is where he
Dylan felt his brow knit.
“Why? If he goes,
will we lose?”
Trance looked troubled.
“If he goes, it would be... harder.
It doesn’t matter. There’s no way for him to go back.”
Dylan still wasn’t sure that was true, but he was tired of
arguing. He didn’t say
anything else, just walked away from Trance and went to Machine Shop
seventeen. It was where
Harper liked to work the best, for whatever reason, and it was probably
where he would go to build his time travel device.
Sure enough, when Dylan got to the door, Harper was there with
Rommie hovering nearby. Harper
had a shirt on again, which made Dylan remember all the scars Wemrik had
erased. How much had the
alien healed the last time, when he’d pretty much saved Harper’s life?
Were Harper’s lungs and immune system still damaged?
Was all the damage that Barris must have done to Harper’s brain
healed? Dylan wanted to order
the kid to Medical to find out what was going on with Harper physically,
but he couldn’t picture that going over well at all.
Dylan stepped out of the room again and said, “Andromeda,
how much discrete medical scanning can you do of Harper?”
A hologram appeared in from of Dylan.
“Basic vital signs, which are a little high, probably because
he’s upset,” Andromeda told him. “Some viral scans, which are showing some very old strains
of some Earthborn diseases. There’s
nothing there that will hurt anyone, including Harper.”
“What about internal scans?” Dylan asked.
“Barris stuck his hand in Harper’s head, then one of the
Children of the Maker healed him. Is
there brain damage? If not,
did Harper get any side benefits, like he did in the corridor outside his
quarters before all hell broke loose?”
“Do you think all this anger and silence is part of some
sort of psychotic episode brought on by brain damage?” Andromeda asked
Dylan shook his head. “I
don’t think it is, but fingers in a person’s brain is usually not
“I’ll have my avatar get a portable scanner if you’ll
watch him for a while,” Andromeda said.
“Go ahead,” Dylan said, then stepped back into the room,
this time going to where Harper was working.
Harper was muttering to himself unintelligibly, quickly
constructing... something. Dylan
didn’t know what Nelson’s supposed time machine looked like, so he
couldn’t be sure what Harper was trying to make. Rommie gave him a nod and left the room.
Dylan stood silently across the work table from Harper, not knowing
what to say, until Harper looked up at him with a glare that practically
set the air between them on fire. “Do
you need anything, Harper?” Dylan asked, thinking that would let Harper
know that he wasn’t here for confrontation.
Harper’s burning gaze stayed locked on him for another few
seconds, then Harper looked back down at what he was doing without
comment. Dylan felt like
sighing. A non talkative
Harper was a very bad thing. Rommie
got back and moved near to Harper and carefully scanned him from behind.
Harper ignored her right up to the moment that she ran the scanner
up over the top his head and brought it into his field of vision.
Harper’s hand shot up, snatched the scanner from Rommie and threw
it hard away from him, immediately going back to work as if nothing had
happened. Rommie gave Dylan a
tight lipped look and nodded toward the door.
Dylan agreed that talking in front of Harper was probably an
exceedingly bad idea at the moment and moved back into the hall.
“Everything is coming back an almost perfect match to his
most recent medical scans, less the damage to his arm and chest and some
old dermal scar tissue. There
doesn’t seem to be any brain damage,” Rommie told him as soon as she
joined him, “but his reaction just now...”
She paused, his lips going tight again.
“Harper’s never been angry with me before. I don’t know how to respond to it.”
“He’s not mad at you,” Dylan assured her, setting a
hand gently on her arm.
Rommie didn’t look to fully believe him. “I
should have done a better job protecting him from Barris.
Harper was the only thing standing between him and Admiral Nelson.
If the Admiral or Doctor Babin had been injured or killed, I
don’t know what would have happened.
We might have been as trapped as Barris, paradoxes from a destroyed
time line. He didn’t just
save the Admiral when he pulled him out of Barris’ reach.
He probably saved all of us.”
That only served to make Dylan feel worse because he
hadn’t thought things through quite that far.
“The thing he’s trying to build, can you make out what he’s
trying to do? Can we help him
somehow?” Dylan asked. He
didn’t care what Trance said about the matter.
Harper shouldn’t be punished this way and Dylan would help him if
Rommie shook her head.
“No. He’s trying
to combine some incompatible Perseid and Vedran technology.
It doesn’t make any sense to me and I don’t think he fully
understands what he’s doing either.
He so upset. He keeps murmuring things about how he never meant to upset
Doctor Babin and that he’ll make it up to her, that she’ll forgive him
for... something. I don’t
know what he’s talking about. He
didn’t do anything wrong.”
“I know,” Dylan sighed out, running a hand through his
hair, feeling helpless.
There was a roar of frustration from the machine shop and
then a crash of metal. Dylan and Rommie went back to the door to see
Harper sweeping things off the table in front of him and cursing.
“Stupid, worthless... Can’t
do anything right!” Harper was saying, throwing things, tears streaming
down his face as he flung the final bit of his barely started contraption
away from himself.
“Harper, don’t...” Dylan started as Harper stood
there, chest heaving.
“Leave me alone,” he half snarled, half sobbed, looking
down at the empty table, not moving otherwise.
“No,” Dylan said, going over to him and laying a hand
gently on his shoulder. “Come
on, Harper. She wouldn’t
want you to do this to yourself.”
Harper turned on his so quickly that Dylan didn’t have a
chance to react, not even when Harper punched him hard in the jaw, sending
him crashing to the deck half from the force of the blow, half from shock.
“You don’t get you use her as a weapon against me!” Harper
screamed in fury, standing over him with clenched fists.
“Dom would never hurt me! I
was the one... the one that hurt her.”
The anger was leaking off Harper’s face as he began to shake.
“I had to go and try to be a hero... like that would happen.
I was the one that messed up everything and I’m too stupid to fix
it. I didn’t deserve her
anyway. She would’ve gotten
tired of me... She...” He
was all but sobbing now and he turned from Dylan and went at a run to the
next access way, yelling, “Leave me alone!
Just leave me alone!”
Harper disappeared into the access way before Dylan actually
thought to pick himself up off the deck.
“Do you want me to go restrain him?” Rommie asked as she came
over to where he was, looking uncertain.
Dylan rubbed his sore chin and said, “No.
That was my fault. I
said the wrong thing. I’ll
take care of it. Could you
clean up in here so Harper doesn’t have to deal with any of this?”
Rommie looked at the wreckage around the room.
“Do you think it would help?”
“At this point, I don’t know if anything would, but I
don’t think it would hurt,” Dylan said, then went to the access way
that Harper had vanished into, sighed to himself, and climbed into the
tunnel, thinking that someday, something would be easy.
It took several hours to find Harper, who looked to be doing
some sort of maintenance deep in ship.
He was sitting cross legged in front of an open panel that he was
adjusting circuits in. Dylan
stopped a good distance away, trying desperately to think of something to
say that wouldn’t set things off again, when Harper beat him to it.
“You can hit me,” he murmured, not looking up, though he
dropped his hands down into his lap.
“It’s fine. I owe
you one shot. Go ahead.
Hit me as hard as you want.”
He didn’t look up or turn around, which meant that the best
targets afforded to Dylan was the back of Harper’s head or his spine.
Dylan was horrified that Harper might actually think that he would
strike him with any kind of force in either place.
some punch, Harper, but I earned it,” Dylan said,
a little closer and sitting down himself.
He didn’t want Harper to feel threatened. Besides, his knees were sore from crawling through the access
tunnels and he rubbed them absently as Harper shrugged, still not looking
back at him.
“Most of my stuff is packed.
You can throw me out wherever you want.”
“Why would I do that?” Dylan asked.
Harper was plainly upset, but why would he think anyone wanted to
be rid of him?
“I hit you. I mean, hitting a superior officer, that’s major, right?
Aren’t you supposed to arrest me or throw me out or execute me or
something?” Harper sighed out. It didn’t sound like he’d put up a fight against any of
the options he’d listed.
“Well, aside from the fact that you resigned and I
accepted your resignation, which means I’m not your superior officer for
the moment, I did just say I was to blame,” Dylan said.
Harper shook his head, but didn’t say anything else.
He was blaming himself for what had happened in the machine shop,
and probably a lot more. Harper
had to be feeling so hurt and lost right now.
Dylan knew how he’d felt when he realized he’d been catapulted
three hundred years into the future.
What had happened to Harper wasn’t that, exactly, but close
enough. “Harper, I know
what you’re feeling...” Dylan started, thinking he was the only one
that could come close to meaning it.
“No, you don’t,” Harper cut him off, his head hanging
lower and one hand moving to his face. “People like you. They
want you around. You... you
always know what to do. You
don’t mess up. You fit
anywhere, any time. You’re
Dylan Hunt, Captain, hero, all around great guy.
For once, I had that and it’s all gone because I couldn’t keep
my big mouth shut, because I didn’t let you handle things like you said
to. It’s all my fault.”
Harper’s voice was broken and shuddering as he finished.
Dylan edged a little closer, saying, “You didn’t do
anything wrong, Harper.”
That’s why everything’s so perfect and everyone’s so
happy,” Harper said, sounding as though he was struggling hard to stop
crying. Poor kid, Dylan
thought with a sigh.
“That’s on Barris, not you,” Dylan told him, easing
nearer still. “He should
have asked for our help instead of trying to extort things from us.”
Finally, he arrived just behind Harper and slowly, carefully
reached a hand out to touch him on the shoulder as he said, “Harper, he
failed because of you. You
are the hero.”
“Being the hero sucks,” Harper sobbed out, hugging
himself. “I’m never doing
it again.” Dylan gently
squeezed Harper’s shoulder, about to give him a few words of
encouragement, when Harper twitched away.
“Nope, no more being the hero for me,” he said, swiping a
sleeve across his eyes as he moved away.
“I’ll leave all that to you.
I’m going back to the background position of adorable grease
monkey. Rommie said I’m two
weeks behind on scheduled maintenance, so I’ve gotta put it in high gear
so she doesn’t start bugging you for a replacement engineer.”
He began to scurry away again, but Dylan followed this time,
saying, “Harper, you don’t need to...”
“Yes, I do,” Harper cut him off, though he didn’t stop
moving nor did he look at Dylan. “I
need to be doing something and be thinking about something other than D...
other than what I lost or I’m gonna curl up in a ball and shut down.
This is how I deal, Dylan. Just
let me, okay? Thanks. See ya.
Soon. I promise.”
And with that, he disappeared again.
Dylan sighed, hanging his head for a moment, feeling helpless and
very tired of being in that position.
No matter what Trance said, things shouldn’t be this way, but
Dylan didn’t know how to change anything.
Suddenly, Barris being doomed to kill himself over and over again
felt like the alien was getting off way too easy.
|Belonging, Chapter One|
|Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea Contents Page|
|Other Fan Fiction Contents Page|