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Belonging

by

Michelle Pichette

 

(A Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea/Gene Roddenberry's Andromeda Crossover)

 

 

  

     Admiral Harriman Nelson stood outside the Circuitry Room, listening as Kowalski complained about all the repairs their most recent run in with the unknown had made necessary.  “You know, some day all this stuff is going to be automatic.  Robots and stuff would take care of the drudge work and the Seaview would be up and running like that.”  There was the sound of fingers snapping.

     “The robots that have been on the Seaview wreck stuff.  They don’t fix anything,” Riley commented.

     “Not those robots.  Heck, I even saw this show about how scientists are trying to make these really tiny robots that will make it so that people don’t get sick and heal fast.”

     “Pat needs the heal fast kind,” Riley chuckled.  Nelson grinned, then moved on toward the nose rather than entering the room.  Circuitry was being taken care of.  The intercom was still down, repairs were underway and Nelson had been taking a walk around to see how things were coming.  No one had been badly hurt except the poor Seaview herself.  They were limping back to Santa Barbara where they could more easily do some major hull repairs.  Nelson hated to think about how many times that had been necessary.  He sincerely wished that it wouldn’t happen so frequently.  It was beginning to wreak havoc with their finances.

     Nelson approached Damage Control now.  Men were running in and out of the room, relaying messages and rushing to assignments.  Nelson entered the maelstrom inside and began thinking Kowalski might have something with his desire for automated repairs.  Robots linked to a central processor, something outside the intercom system, able to go about their assignments and leave the men away from hazardous areas.  It was a nice dream, but Nelson couldn’t see it happening any time soon.  At least he had the comfort of knowing that if men had to affect repairs, he had the best here under his command.  “Where do we stand, Lieutenant Commander Simmons?” he asked the center of the activity in the room.

     Lieutenant Commander Rowena Simmons looked up from the clip board she was reviewing.  “It could be worse, sir,” she said without hesitation.  Many men wouldn’t look past her beautiful exterior to see her superior mind.  Nelson was not so shallow.  She was an outstanding engineer and had improved many of the Seaview’s systems in her short time in Nelson’s employ.  He had never regretted hiring her.  “Air recyc is up and the reactor is stable.  We should have the intercom up any minute.  The hull damage is my biggest concern, but I’m limited for the moment.”

     “Do your best.  Keep me posted,” Nelson said.

     “Yes, sir,” Simmons replied, then started handing out assignments again.

     Nelson got himself out of the way, continuing to the Control Room.  Captain Lee Crane was standing behind Patterson, who was on sonar, both of them pouring over the screen for some reason.  “Is there a problem?” Nelson asked as he approached.

     “We aren’t sure.  We keep getting a blip, just at the edge of our sonar,” Lee replied.  “Almost like a ghost reading.  It disappears than comes back, never staying more than a second or two, always just a little off from where it last appeared.  We tried slowing, but whatever it is matches our pace.  It could be nothing, but I doubt it.”

     “We have a tail,” Nelson summed up.

     “So it seems,” Lee agreed as he straightened and faced the Admiral.  “We aren’t in any shape for a fight or I’d turn and take the chase to them.  Whoever or whatever it is hasn’t threatened us and the longer they wait, the closer we get to Santa Barbara.  We’re only a few hours out as it is.  It could be our blip isn’t hostile.  That does make more sense.  It is rather obvious that the Seaview has some heavy damage.  Maybe its just a curious whale.”

     “Maybe.  Keep an eye on it, Patterson, just in case,” Nelson said.  He knew he didn’t have to say it, that Patterson was very diligent.

     “Yes, sir.”

     “Repairs are in good hands and the doctor says everything is calming down in Sick Bay, with only minor injuries report.  Chief Sharkey has taken a headcount and all personal are accounted for.  Anything else a concern, Lee?” Nelson asked.  He kept waiting for the next bomb to drop, though he wasn’t sure why.  If anyone would be able to put a finger on what he was dreading, Lee would be that someone.

     “No, Admiral.  As I said, we should be at the Institute in about four hours,” Lee replied, then smirked.  “In plenty of time for the fund raiser on Friday.”

     “Yes, that,” Nelson grumbled, for he hadn’t been looking forward to it at all.  They were having a huge dinner affair for some of the Institute’s major supporters.  It tended to be a tedious but necessary evening.  However, thinking of it brought something else to mind.  “Has anyone seen Doctor Babin recently?”  Now that he thought of it, he hadn’t seen or heard from her since the Seaview had come under attack.  Sharkey must have, but he was off with the repair teams at the moment.

     “She’s on the front porch,” Lee replied, going to the plotting table where Chip was already trying to work out a shorter, easier way to get back home.  If it were possible, Chip would do it, of that Nelson had no doubt.

     The Admiral walked up to the nose to find Doctor Babin sitting quietly in one of the chairs, looking out the large Herculite windows.  As their Marine Biologist, she was under orders to lay low when trouble started.  She usually did just that, but sometimes Nelson wondered if it made her feel as if she was in the way.  She certainly had a distant look on her face at the moment.  “Dominica, are you all right?” Nelson asked as he approached her.

     She looked up at him and smiled warmly, the faraway look gone in an instant.  “I’m fine,” she assured him calmly.  It was as if nothing had happened.  Nelson was constantly surprised that even the most dire circumstances never seemed to bother the young doctor.  He couldn’t help but give her a little smile himself, feeling a little better than he had been a moment ago.

     “Good.  Have you got your dress for the fund raiser?” Nelson asked, not wanting dwell on the current condition of the Seaview or how she’d gotten that way for at least a few moments.

     Doctor Babin groaned.  “Do I need one already?”

     “Friday evening, six sharp, one of the Institute’s drivers will be knocking at your door,” Nelson replied as he took a seat by her.

     Doctor Babin rolled her eyes.  “I can drive myself to the Institute.  I only live two miles away.”

     “Normally, I wouldn’t argue that fact, but Friday I plan to exhaust you by flinging you at some of our more difficult contributors and I want to make certain you get home safely,” Nelson told her.  She smiled and chuckled, not seeming to plan any further arguments.  He genuinely liked Doctor Babin.  He felt that he could talk to her about almost anything without having to worry about it going any further.  “Miss Simmons is making a fuss about my sending a driver for her, but I intend to make it an order if she keeps it up.  I won’t repeat what she had to say about the fund raiser itself, even before the Seaview was damaged.  Now her mind will be elsewhere all evening.  I think I have finally found someone who despises these damned things as much as I do.”

     Doctor Babin let out another soft, warm laugh.  “It could be worse.  Imagine the horror of having to be at the beck and call of the government twenty four seven to cover annual expenses.  Look at the trouble they landed us in this time out.”

     “And I plan to present them a substantial bill for repairs,” Nelson assured her.

     “Good.  You’re going to save a dance for me, aren’t you?  After I brave the dance floor with the toe crushers that I’ve been warned usually attend these things, I think it’s the least you can do.”

     Nelson smiled. “Of course, Doctor Babin.  It would be my pleasure.”  And it probably would be the most pleasurable part of the evening, Nelson mused as he watched out the front view port with the young doctor.  All in all, things could be worse.  At least he had the best and brightest with him when things grew dark.

* * *

     Captain Dylan Hunt was walking slowly through his ship, the Andromeda Ascendant, after another one of their bouts with the hostile forces that seem rampant in the universe.  They were the only Commonwealth ship left to defend the no longer existent Commonwealth.  Dylan was going to rebuild both the fleet and the Commonwealth, provided he lived long enough to do it.  Things were getting better, at least as far as rebuilding the Commonwealth.  Many worlds had shifted their answer from ‘absolutely not’ to ‘if you get enough other worlds to agree.’  It was just a matter of time, Dylan thought, though time was not an infinite commodity anymore.  There was the impending Magog invasion that they had to build a fleet to repel and the Nietzscheans were constantly at odds with everyone, even themselves.  No, time was not on their side, but Dylan had faith in his ship and his crew, small as that crew was at the moment.

     At that thought, Beka Valentine, his second in command, and Tyr Anasazi, his weapons officer, suddenly appeared, coming from direction of the hanger deck, bickering.  They fought verbally quite often, like an old married couple.  Dylan grinned, then pushed the expression off his face, because he knew neither would appreciate the comparison.  Tyr was Nietzschean and in the Nietzschean quest for genetic perfection, they rarely had intimate relationships outside their own kind.  Tyr was even worse because he was trying to rebuild the Kodiak pride, so he definitely wasn’t looking for any kind of long term relationship with Beka.  Beka, on the other hand, was human and though she probably wouldn’t mind a more intimate relationship with Tyr, Dylan doubted that she wanted to be his ‘mate’ or marriage with any man.  She liked her independence too much.

     “Dylan, if you want me to go get repair supplies, the hanger doors have to open to let the Maru out,” Beka carped at him, gesturing grandly in irritation.  The Eureka Maru was her vessel and even though it was no where near as state of the art as the Andromeda, Dylan knew that Beka would never give up her old freighter, nor did he want her to.  It had come in handy quite often.

     “Yes, that would make sense,” Dylan agreed amiably, nodding.  At least he knew, in part, what Beka was angry about.  There was more, he was certain, but he wasn’t going to ask.  It would be out directly.

     “And of course that boy can’t be found to do his job,” Tyr sneered, drawing an indignant breath from Beka, who seemed ready to pummel Tyr for what he’d said.  ‘That boy’ referred to Seamus Harper, the closest thing that Andromeda had to an Engineering staff at the moment.  And this was probably not Tyr’s first disparaging remark about Harper and that was probably why Beka had been yelling at him a moment ago.  Harper had been part of her old crew on the Maru and Beka was protective of all things having to do with the Maru.  Of course, that didn’t mean that Beka was above teasing and taunting Harper herself.  She was almost like an older sister in that regard, ready to give him grief whenever he opened himself to it, which was constantly.

     “Harper has his hands full at the moment and I’m sure that he’s working on something important if he’s not answering hails,” Dylan told Tyr.  Tyr crossed his arms and cocked his head, not at all impressed with what Dylan had just told him.  Dylan looked up and said, “Andromeda, where is Mister Harper?”

     “He’s working on the Anti Proton reactor and asked not to be disturbed or, as he put it, ‘things might go boom!’” the ship responded in an even tone.

     “And there we have it.  I can only assume that Harper thought that our reactor took precedence to the hanger door,” Dylan said, hoping that would settle things.  He should have known better.

     “I have better things to do than wait for that boy to get around to letting me off the Andromeda,” Tyr snarled.  Beka snarled right back at him, probably ready to throttle him.

     “Well, we all have our sacrifices to make.  Andromeda, route whatever repair resources we can spare to deal with the problem with the hanger door,” Dylan responded, not about to give Tyr any sympathy at all.  He knew that Tyr had his own agenda and still wasn’t sure exactly what it was.  Dylan had some suspicions, but he kept them to himself.  Tyr gave him a sneer and stalked off back toward the hanger.  Beka got a smug look on her face and turned to follow him, probably to give him grief now that Dylan had pretty much put him at her mercy.  “I’m guessing that Trance stayed on the Maru?” Dylan asked before she could disappear.

     “Yes.  She said that we would be going soon so there was no sense getting off to get right back on,” Beka called back.

     “Of course she did,” Dylan mumbled to himself.  Trance, once sparkly, purple, bubbly and enigmatic, now was golden, solemn and even more enigmatic.  Dylan didn’t know if he trusted her or Tyr less at the moment.  They both came through in a pinch, but he didn’t like all the uncertainties surrounding the pair of them lately.

     Dylan continued up to the Command Deck, where Rommie, the ship’s avatar, stood on watch by herself.  Dylan sighed.  He valued his current crew, but sometimes he longed for the day when he had a ship’s compliment of more than six.  Thank heavens for automated systems was all he could think about that subject and he was grateful to have Rommie.  Had he ever thanked Harper for building her and for doing such an excellent job of it?  He would have to make a point of doing so.

     “Dylan, we may have a problem,” Rommie said as he approached her.

     “Why am I not surprised?” Dylan asked.  “What’s wrong, other than the latest battle damage?”

     “It could be nothing, but something keeps brushing the edge of our sensors,” Rommie replied.  “I can’t get a lock on it and I haven’t been able to identify it.”

     “Could it be a glitch in the sensors?” Dylan asked.

     “Possibly.  We did take on a lot of damage,” Rommie replied.  “I’ll let you know if there is any change.  Oh, and Harper is currently in the slipstream core.  He says we should have the slipstream drive back online in thirty minutes at the most and wants to know what you wanted him for.”

     “Just the Hanger Deck repairs, but they’re being taken care of,” Dylan replied with a shrug, then began to think about it.  Harper had been hard at repairs for about the last ten hours, both during and after the fracas.  Dylan frowned when he thought about how long Harper had been at things without a word of complaint.  Ever since Harper had gotten the Magog larvae that had been about to kill him removed at the cost of the Perseid Technical Director Hohne’s life, the kid had been all but working himself to death repairing and improving the Andromeda and trying to come up with new weapons to destroy the Magog world ship that would soon threaten all sentient life in the universe.  Dylan decided that since he didn’t have much to do at the moment, the least he could do was see if Harper could use an extra pair of hands to help with some of the more urgent repairs that the Andromeda needed.  Harper probably wouldn’t sleep until the major systems were up and Dylan wanted to be sure that Harper didn’t actually work himself into an early grave.

     “I’ll be in the slipstream core, Rommie,” Dylan said as he started from the Command Deck.  “Keep me posted on that contact.”

     “Of course, Dylan.  And the Maru just left,” Rommie informed him.  That was good news.  With any luck, all the repairs would go quickly so they could get back to business as usual.

     It didn’t take that long to reach the slipstream core, but when he got there, Dylan didn’t see Harper anywhere.  “Harper?” he called into the cavernous room.

     “Up here!” he heard echo from one of the access ways halfway across the room.  “Ten more minutes, Boss, and we’ll have our engines back online.”  Dylan’s brow knit.  There was something strange about Harper’s voice but Dylan couldn’t place what it was while it was more echo than anything else.  Perhaps that was what sounded odd.

     “Do you need anything, Harper?” Dylan asked, moving toward the access way.

     “A vacation, a steady girl, and a Sparky cola, but I’ll settle for the cola,” Harper replied.  That was his typical reply to that particular question, but his voice definitely sounded strange.  Then Dylan got near the access way and he heard a muffled cough.  He began to feel dread building in him, but he pushed it away, trying to convince himself that it was probably nothing.  He wanted the Andromeda fully repaired as quickly as possible and he needed Harper hard at work for that to be accomplished, so he had to be reading too much into the cough.

     “Is everything all right, Harper?” Dylan called up his engineer.

     “Peachy,” came Harper’s reply, then another cough.

     Dylan sighed.  Why should anything go right today?  “Could I see you for a moment, Mister Harper,” Dylan said, the ‘mister’ mostly so that Harper would know that ‘no’ wasn’t an option.

     “I know, I know.  Rommie said that the senors were acting up.”  Harper’s voice was growing closer and Dylan could now clearly hear that he sounded congested.  Congested wasn’t good.  “I’m on it right after the slipstream drive.”  Harper slipped out of the access way and dropped onto the deck right in front of Dylan, stumbling a little when he did, which concerned Dylan immediately because Harper was usually far more graceful when exiting access ways, almost acrobatic really.  As Harper regained his composure, he paused to turn his head and coughed into his shoulder before continuing.  He looked awful:  eyes puffy and red, plainly badly congested, sweating and possibly feverous.  Dylan looked down at his force lance and did a quick scan.  Make that definitely feverous, not that Harper seemed to notice.  Dylan wasn’t sure how Harper had gotten sick.  The engineer hadn’t been off the Andromeda in better than a month.  Someone had to have brought something aboard without following proper decontamination procedures and it probably hadn’t been Harper or he would have gotten sick before now.  “I still have the forward cannons to work on, then there’s the shielding and...”

     “You need to go to the Medical Deck, Harper,” Dylan sternly interrupted the litany of repairs.

     Harper looked exasperated.  He also looked ready to fall down.  “Somebody broke something on the Medical Deck?  Is nothing sacred?  Like I don’t have enough to do!” he complained, then coughed again, wiping his nose unconsciously on his sleeve after he did.  He was also starting to sway a little, though Dylan doubted that he realized he was doing it.

     “No, Harper.  I want you to go to the Medical Deck and get treated for...” Dylan started.  Harper’s exasperated expression gained intensity.

     “I don’t have time to be sick!  Three more hours, four tops, and I’ll be happy to collapse anywhere you want.”  Harper loved the Andromeda the way he loved all women that crossed his path, with every fiber of his being, not that any of the flesh and blood females ever seemed to return the young man’s blind devotion.  At least the Andromeda could take care of him now that he was ill the way he took care of her on a day to day basis.

     “I admire your dedication, but a one hundred and two point seven degree temperature buys you immediate time on the Medical Deck,” Dylan said, gently turning Harper in the appropriate direction and starting off with him to make certain that the kid got to the Medical Deck and didn’t make any detours to do more repairs on the sly.  He wasn’t worried about close contact with  his engineer, since he didn’t have a poor immune system like Harper did.  That and damaged lungs were two of the crosses that the kid bore from having been born and growing up on the cesspit that Earth had become.  Dylan winced in sympathy as Harper coughed again.  It sounded painful, but Harper just shuffled along next to him, probably more worried about the Andromeda than he was about himself.  The chances that anyone else was going to fall ill were actually quite minor, but Dylan was going to have Rommie sweep the ship for contaminants all the same.  He didn’t want to get Harper well only to have him fall sick again at an even more desperate time.  “You can dictate a priority list for the automated systems, then I want you to rest and get well.”

     “Sure.  Have the automated systems do everything and you’ll decide you don’t need the adorable yet sickly guy with the tools.  Then it’s goodbye Harper, don’t let the door hit you too hard on the ass on your way out,” Harper groused, then coughed again.  Dylan could see him starting to tremble with the effort of simply walking.  He was glad the Medical Deck wasn’t far, because Harper seemed to be getting warmer by the second.  He glanced at his force lance and almost cursed when he scanned Harper’s temperature and got a reading of one hundred and three point five.  Whatever the engineer had caught, it was kicking into overdrive.  Dylan was glad he had decided to go help Harper, because he had the feeling he would have been carrying the kid out of the access ways within the hour anyway.  Harper hadn’t been very happy when Dylan had carried him to Medical back earlier in their association, but Harper had been coughing up blood and had collapsed from radiation poisoning on the Command Deck and Dylan hadn’t been willing to wait for a stretcher.  Dylan hoped to spare them both that indignity this time out.

     “Not in a million years, Harper.  I don’t know how I survived as long as I did without you,” Dylan assured him, thinking a little compliment was the least he could do.

     Harper looked up and gave Dylan a winning, dimple filled smile, his bloodshot, red rimmed blue eye somehow managing to twinkle.  “Does that mean I get a raise?”

     Dylan nodded, unable to help but smile himself.  “As soon as we reestablish the Commonwealth, it will be my first priority, along with a full engineering staff eager for your guidance.”

     Harper looked away and coughed again, but said, “Promises, promises,” as if he’d heard it all before, which he had.  “And where are you going to find all these people?  Or am I building them when I feel a little better?”

     Dylan chuckled as he clapped the younger, smaller man on the shoulder, gently, as to not knock the ailing engineer to the ground.  Trust Harper to find a way to make a joke, even when he was ready to drop.  Things might not be perfect, but Dylan was actually not all that displeased with the hand that fate had dealt him.

* * *

 

 

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