Shieldbrothers: The Rescue

BY : Lursa_and_BeTor
Category: 1 through F > Andromeda
Dragon prints: 3891
Disclaimer: I do not own Andromeda, nor any of the characters from it. I do not make any money from the writing of this story.

Chapter Three: Misguided Mission


Harper drops down into the pilot’s seat of the Maru. His uneasy feelings are stronger but he still can’t say why. Olma seemed her usual poisonous self but there was something off in her manner. She was as supercilious as ever but when he said goodbye to her and Tamerlaine, she seemed both determined and faintly nervous. Maybe she was nervous about him meeting Tamerlaine. Didn’t want any corrupting kludge influence on the kid. Really takes that ‘care and feeding of the messiah’ thing way too seriously. That was probably all it was.

Harper sighs. His stomach isn’t convinced by his reasoning. He glances at Bellerophon and Chimaera as they walk into the cockpit. Their eyes are big and excited as they look around the area. How had Olma been treating them? They had seemed very glad to see him as if they could not wait to get away from the old bat?

The kids look good. They almost have their full height now and look more like Tyr than ever. Sleeveless leather vests show off the defined muscles of their arms and chests. They still look more skinny than lean but they will fill out as they get older. No doubt one day they will match their father’s muscle mass.

“Okay, guys, let’s blast off this rock.” Harper quickly snaps himself in the harness. He wants to get back to the Andromeda with the kids as soon as possible. “You may want to hang on to something.”

“I’d like to watch you pilot the ship…if you don’t mind.” Chimaera leans on the back of Harper’s seat. His dark eyes take in every move that Harper makes.

“Have you ever flown a ship?” Harper flips the ignition switch and applies a bit of thrust to get them airborne. His fingers dance limberly over the console but he slows down his movements enough that the kids can follow what he is doing.

Bellerophon moves along the railing of the raised flooring to get a better view of the proceedings. “No. We didn’t use technology on Valerus Prime.”

“That’s right…sorry got a lot on my mind right now.” Harper guides the ship out of the planet’s atmosphere and into space. Everything going well so far. They have made if off the planet but there was a lot of space between here and the Andromeda. The unease in his stomach was not decreasing with the distance from the planet. If anything, he was feeling even more twitchy.

“What are those?” Chimaera points at the switches.

Harper grins. An impromptu piloting lesson should distract him pleasantly. Besides the boys should know how to fly the Maru…just in case. The more pilots on the ship, the better. “Those start the ship up. Turn the power on so we get thrust.” He points to a few more. “These activate the slipstream drive.”

“It doesn’t seem too complicated.” Bellerophon leans over the railing above his brother. His long hair falls forward, fng hng his curious face.

Harper spares a quick glance over his shoulder at Bellerophon. “Well it is and it isn’t. Beka has been piloting since she was about Tamerlaine’s age. Your father has been piloting for years.”

“Father can fly this ship?” Bellerophon asks with interest. He drops over the railing and moves to stand next to his brother.

Harper laughs. “Your father has flown Andromeda.”

A pleasant hour passes as Harper explains the basic workings of the Maru to his two eager students. They stand on either side of him, asking one question after another until he is feeling cross-eyed, trying to explain and demonstrate sequences of commands. The boys exchange a long look over Harper’s head, then Chimaera asks if he can pilot for a bit.

Harper gets up and shows the tall teen how to buckle into the seat and stands back to watch. He remembers how excited he was the first time that he got to pilot. He watches Chimaera closely for several minutes then he grins widely and slaps the kid on the shoulder. “You’re a natural, you know that?”

“It’s not as easy as it looks but I think I like it.” Chimaera grins back. His dark brown eyes glow with excitement.

Bellerophon hangs over the back of the chair. His eyes narrow curiously on one of the screens. He points a long finger at converging blips. “Harper…what are those?”

“Oh crap!” Harper motions Chimaera out of the chair and flings himself into it. Oh, damn. Damn. This was not good. “I don’t know kid but they aren’t asking questions. We need to try to get to a slip point and fast.”

Harper applies thrusters and urges the Maru closer to a slip point. There are too many of them. Running is his best chance at getting the boys to safety. The dots are converging faster. Damn. Damn. Damn. Who the heck were they? It could be anyone, Tyr has a fairly long list of enemies but Harper has a bad feeling that he knows who the dots represent. An explosion rocks the small cargo ship. Sparks sizzle and fly from the console behind Bellerophon. A second explosion shakes the Maru.

“They’re shooting at us!” Chimaera exclaims. His eyes are wide with astonishment.

“Yeah. I got that.” Harper taps on the console. He bites his lip as he glances over the readings. The situation was bad and getting worse but he isn’t giving up. “Crap…it’s the Neteryu! That last hit knocked out weapons. Damn it!”
hat’hat’s a Nietzschean pride.” Bellerophon replies quietly. His big hands tighten on the back of the pilot’s chair.

“Yeah. It’s the one that Über Bitch Katherine belongs to. This cannot be good.” Harper sees a chance and tries to fly the Maru between two of the Neteryu vessels. If he can break out…damn it! The other ships quickly correct their course and he is forced to fall back.

Chimaera grasps the railing firmly. Nervous tension shows in the lean lines of his body. “Perhaps we should stay and fight.”

“That would not be smart. There are more of them than us. They’re bigger and out gun us.” Harper darts through a maze of ships, zigging and zagging, trying to find an opening and avoid enemy fire. His lips are set in a grim line. Olma had to have known something but she said nothing. Typical. Olma had probably considered this a good opportunity to wipe out Tyr’s little collection of kludges and haludgeudges at one time. He had to protect the kids and get them to safety. That’s his priority.

A new blip shows up on his screen. It is ahead of him. A bigger ship than those chasing him. Maybe it’s someone who can and will help. Harper glances over the readings. It looks like…YES! It’s a Sabra-Jaguar ship. Thank the Divine.

A vaguely familiar female voice purrs over the com connection through bursts of static. “Kludge ship. This is the S-Jag-Jaguar vessel Sharpened Claw. Do you require assistance?”

Where has he heard that voice before? Another explosion rocks the ship. Harper bites his lip. He doesn’t have good associations with that voice but he isn’t in a position to be picky about whose aid, he accepts. “Yes. We’ve got some bad guys on our tail.”

“No problem.” The Sharpened Claw fires a warning shot at the Neteryu ships. The smaller ships turn and vanish into the slipstream.

Harper frowns…that was easy. His fingers tap nervously on his knee as he tries to convince himself that things are okay. Sure the Neteryu gave up awfully easy but the Sabra Jaguar ship was bigger and plus the Sabra Jaguar had a pretty bad reputation. The warning shot thing…that’s something that Dylan would do. He wouldn’t have expected Nietzscheans to bother with warnings. “Well, er, thanks for your help.”

“My pleasure.” The voice soothes softly. “Your ship is damaged. Allow us to help you repair it.”

“No, that won’t be necessary.” Harper replies quickly. This does not feel right. They have to leave now. His hands move swiftly over the console, preparing to head fast for the closest slip point. “We’ll just be on our way.”

“No. I insist.” The voice is openly amused now as grappling clamps settle over the Maru and began dragging it into the Sharpened Claw. “This universe is not a safe place for little kludges and kludge spawn.”

“What’s happening, Harper?” Chimaera asks. He glances at his brother.

“If my guess is right. We’ve just been taken by the Über Bitches. This is not good.”
Harper unbuckles his seat and hurries up the steps to the weapon’s locker, followed by the kids. He hands each of the boys a gauss pistol. “You guys know how to handle one of these?”

“Yes.” Bellerophon stares down at the pistol. His hands move competently over it, checking it. “The men of Tamerlaine’s pride showed us a few times.”

“Good.” Harper nods. If the kids know how to fight, they have a chance. He was going to get these boys back to their father no matter what it cost him. “Now this may get ugly very fast so listen to me. We need to take out as many of these people as we can. Then we’re going to get out of here as fast as we can. Got that?”

“We know what to do.” Chimaera’s eyes are big but his face is set in grimly determined lines.

“Good” Harper sets the kids up in ambush positions around the hatch. He listens, watching the hatch. won’won’t take long once the Maru is pulled into the docking bay. He glances over his shoulder at the kids and offers an encouraging smile.

Now. Here it comes. The hatch opens and Nietzschean men surge quickly through. Harper fires. He is vaguely aware of the twins firing behind him. The hatch is narrow enough that they can hold off the attackers for a while but eventually they will be over run if the Nietzscheans are determined to take the Maru. Harper fires coolly at his targets. The kids are picking off men neatly as well. At last, the hatch is empty except for the bodies.

They w hav have long before the Neteryu regroup and gather more men for another assault. He will have to act quickly now that the Neteryu have discovered not to underestimate kludges. Harper smiles warmly at the kids. “You guys are good. Your father will be proud of you.”

Harper sneaks to the hatch door and glances around the docking bay. It’s clear for the moment. He shoves the bodies blocking the hatch out of the way. The kids can space the rest of the bodies once they are free. The step is to get free. Corpse removal detail can come later.

“What do we do now?” Chimaera creeps up behind him.

Harper looks at the brothers. They are so young. He feels ancient as he looks into their eyes and sees the thrill of battle mixing with the trust that he knows what to do and will take care of them. Harper touches the kids’ faces lightly. If this goes bad, this may be the last time that he gets to touch someone that he cares about. Okay. Suck it up, Harper. Mustn’t scare the troops. He orders in a calm, even tone. “Get back on the ship. I’ve got to open the docking bay door and get us out of this hell hole. Chimaera…do you think you can take the controls?”

“Yes.” Chimaera nods. The dark eyes are worried. “But…”

“No buts. We don’t have time.” Harper squeezes Chimaera’s shoulder. “I’m going to get us free. But if I can’t make it back to the ship I want you out of here and hitting slipstres sos soon as possible.”

“We won’t leave you.” Bellerophon scowls. His face is set in stubborn lines.

“This is not open for discussion!” Harper snaps. He can see from the distress in Chimaera’s dark eyes that the kid realizes that he isn’t expecting to make it back. “Be ready on my signal.”

“What’s the signal?” Chimaera asks.

“The doors will open.” er cer calls over his shoulder as he runs toward the door. He can feel the seconds slipping away.

Harper yanks open the access panel by the door. He attaches a jack from his neural implant to the access panel and jacks in. The ship’s systems are simple. Nothing like what he is used to with Andromeda. He slides quickly through the streams of data to find the docking doors. There. He can control the doors now but that isn’t enough. The Maru can get out but they also have to get away. The Maru can’t fight or out run this ship. He swims through the system, ripping away at data files, disrupting systems, planting viruses as fast as he can along the way.

Bellerophon and Chimaera watch from the hatch. Chimaera tightly grips his brother’s shoulder. Harper is slumped on the floor by the access panel, disturbingly inert. Bellerophon jerks his gaze away from Harper to look at Chimaera. “Someone’s coming.”

Chimaera stares at the human’s limp form. Can Harper hear him? He calls urgently, “Come on, Harper.”

“We need to get out of here soon.” Bellerophon looks anxiously from his brother to Harper.

Chimaera sucks in a deep breath as the docking bay door begin running through the opening cycle. He looks back at the human but Harper is not moving. Harper had ordered him to leave but he is reluctant to abandon the human. He cares about Harper. What will his father say if he goes back without Harper?

He hesitates. He can see the door next to Harper slowly being forced open. A gun muzzle appears. Bellerophon shoves his brother further back into the Maru. They have to leave now. Bellerophon glances one last time over his shoulder. The door is open all the way now and the Neteryu are shooting wildly. A shower of sparks arch over Harper as a wayward shot hits the access panel. Harper screams and convulses then goes limp.

“Nooo!!” Chimaera screams. He tries to push past his brother.

“We can’t do anything for him. He’d want us to escape.” Bellerophon shoves his brother back and gives the order to close the hatch.

Chimaera turns and growls. “We need to do something.”

“Right. We do what he wanted. We escape and go find father.” Bellerophon pushes his brother toward the cockpit. “Now get us out of here.”

Chimaera drops the the seat, ignoring the tears on his face as he flies the Maru out of the docking bay. What is he going to say to his father? How is he going to tell Tyr? Chimaera opens a slip point and runs.

***

“Someone needs to talk to him.” Trance repots one of her many plants in hydroponics. Her tail twitches nervously.

Beka watches, brooding. She is the last person that Tyr wants to talk to. He blamed her pique over his affair with Harper for her decision to allow Harper to go alone. Well, hell, how was she supposed to know that picking up two kids would be dangerous? Harper hadn’t said anything about expecting trouble. No one bothered to tell her that Athena and Katherine had escaped. “Well it doesn’t need to be me. He blames me for letting Harper go in the first place.”

“Maybe he’ll calm down soon.” Trance sighs hopefully as she holds the pot up, inspecting her plant’s new home.

Beka shakes her head. “Ain’t gonna happen.”

“It’s beenr a r a week. No one’s heard anything from ‘those women’ or Harper.” Trance wipes dirt from her fingers and turns to face Beka.

“Okay. I’ll talk to him.” Beka sighs. This is not going to go well. She did not ell ell in emotional situations. “Andromeda where is Tyr?”

The hologram materializes in front of Trance. “Tyr is on his way to docking bay seven. The Maru just made it back.”

Beka and Trance exchange wide grins and race toward the docking bay. They arrive to see Bellerophon and Chimaera exiting the ship. No Harper. Tyr embraces his sons.

“Father. There was nothing we could do.” Chimaera’s voice is breaking. His arms are wrapped tightly around his father.

“You made it home in one piece. That is what Harper wanted you to do.” Tyr replies stiffly as he strokes his son’s long hair. He frames Chimaera’s face in his hands, wiping away tears. He kisses his son’s forehead and releases the boy.

Bellerophon looks at Tyr. His eyes are dark and full of distress. “We saw him fall and convulse then lie still. More guards were coming so we did as he requested…we came to find you.”

“You survived. I’m proud of you.” Tyr moves to stand before Bellerophon. He hugs the boy and kisses his forehead. “Your old quarters should do well for you for a while.”

Beka and Trance watch as Tyr turns from his sons and walks out of the docking bay. His face and eyes are blank. He pauses for a moment at the doorway, gripping the edge of the frame then he slowly walks away.

Tyr sits on the observation deck, staring bleakly out at the stars. He cannot bear his quarters with Harper’s scent and things surrounding him. Where is Harper? Is his shieldbrother still alive out there? His sons might have misunderstood what they saw. They had never been in battle before. Harper often appeared disturbingly not there when he was jacked in. Tyr ignores the slow slide of tears down his cheeks. His fingers tremble over the locator still fastened to his gauntlet. Harper. Harper.

He stiffens as the door opens. He can smell the heavy musk scent of Magog. Rev Bem and his pious platitudes are the last things that he wants now. Tyr stares motionless at the cold beauty of the stars. No! He will not accept this. He will pit his will against the universe for Harper. He will not accept that Harper is gone forever without more proof than a pair of grieving, battle shocked children.

“Would you like me to pray with you?” Rev Bem offers.

Tyr sniffs. His lips lift in a snarl. He will not give in to defeat. “No.”

“Harper was a truly exceptional person. May perpetual light shine upon…”

Tyr pivots, growling savagely. His bone blades snap erect. “I will not stand here and listen to your dirge, Magog! Harper is a survivor. He is alive.”

“He may not be.” Rev answers quietly.

“NO! Don’t say it. Don’t’ you dare say it, Magog.” Tyr crouches, growling. “I’m going to find him. I’ll not give up until I either find him alive or hold his dead body in my arms.”




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