Harry sat near the window watching the stars streak by as the U.S.S Monitor rapidly flew to Termia. No one said anything to him, no one came up to start a polite conversation because his face was fixed into a grimace as he stared into his drink. Either that or the current storm of infamy circulating around him at the moment. The Horrors of the disastrous Epsilon Three War games were still rather fresh in his mind and only a week prior. He took a drink of his Cherry Fiz soda and then frowned noticing it had gone flat while he was pondering his fate.
He really wanted something harder but figured he was probably being watched on the trip back home to talk to Fleet HQ for a board of inquiry on the matter.
"Mind some company, Harry?" He heard Captain Stiles say.
"Yeah, I'm not really doing much right now," Harry replied.
Stiles sat across from him. "You look like a condemned man, son."
"I just might well be," Harry said, finishing his drink.
"Well we don't know that yet," Stiles said. "Questions need to be asked, answers need to be given."
"Oh yeah…." Harry said sarcastically. "I was only in command of not one but two potentially dangerous prototypes that were thrown together despite my objections and it just so happened to go haywire," Harry said setting his glass down with a clink. "They are looking for someone to roast and I can damn well assure you it won't be Admiral Leyton. I know how these things work."
"I will admit, it doesn't look good," Stiles said. "But I doubt they'll Lynch the Hero of Sector 942?"
"That was years ago," Harry said. "Maybe not but I doubt they'll let me keep the Raptor."
"Well we won't know till it's over," Stiles said. "You should at least try to ease up on yourself just a bit."
"I am, I"m drinking soda," Harry said.
"Are you going to go home while we are here?" Stiles asked.
"Yes," Harry said. "I know we got a few days before the Inquiry I may as well pay a visit."
"I think you should, it'd do you good," Stiles responded. "I'll be busy getting everything in order so just leave it to me."
"You haven't met my brother." qasHarry sighed.
Special Episode 8A
Harry materialized in Kirton Station one of the larger towns in Ketha province that served as a spaceport to export crops and other goods made in the area. Harry noticed he stood out a bit because most of the other echidna's were dressed in civilian garb while he was in his dark-colored uniform. Even Though he was from this area most Kethan's liked to live simple uncomplicated lives and weren't used to seeing many "fleeters" come through their area. It was also about midsummer which became quickly apparent after the wheat harvest. Harry quickly headed to a clothier and got a more appropriate outfit.
A scant few credits later he emerged with a T-shirt, jeans, leather vest, and sunglasses. Uniform packed into his duffel, he'd already decided on his method of going home and headed for a monocycle dealer.
He found one that fit him perfectly, it was way nice than his old one and had some nice features. He rode it around the parking lot a few times to get a feel for it. "How much?" He asked the merchant who seemed impressed that he knew how to handle himself one of it.
"150k." The older echidna said. "You know a lot of you fleeters come down here and usually end up in the hospital with one of those things, you seem to know your way around one."
"Rode one for years, a lifetime ago," Harry said confidently. "Been meaning to get one again, just been busy, this thing collapses for storage does it not?"
"The best ones do."
Harry thought about it, it wasn't like he couldn't cover the cost, hell it barely put a dent in what he'd earned. Credits were just for luxuries and stupid impulse buys at merchants who used them. "I'll take it." He said, handing the merchant his card. At least with the suspension on this thing the ride home would be a total breeze. The merchant came back and handed him back his card. "She's yours, take good care of it."
Harry put the cad away. "Oh, I will." He said revving the engine and rolling it out of the small lot. As soon as he was on the open run he gunned it taking off down the graveled roads of the area.
As he zipped along at several Kilometers per hour he forgot how nice it felt to do so. He even practiced a few jumps with the vehicle and found he was still capable of it. The gyro on this cycle was damn near perfect; he hardly had to make any adjustments to the controls to correct the balance for it.
The hills and fields passed by him as he zipped down the road till he finally stopped at the top of the hill of his home and stopped looking down and the little valley between the rolling hills where his birthplace and childhood home sat. The smells of the grain, the hot midsummer breeze and the clinking of his aunt's wind chimes surrounding the one-story four-bedroom house.
He hesitated but the last time he wrote he promised he'd come by if he was in the area. He pushed the throttle forward and rolled down the drive, noticing the hovercar was missing. He parked under the shade of the large tree that grew in the yard detached the duffle and collapsed the bike to its stored form. He took a deep breath and sighed walking up to the door and knocking on it.
As he waited for a response he noticed that the yard was surprisingly not cluttered with his brother's art projects save for a few. It was well tended and a rather large and bountiful garden occupied a lot of it. In a way he was grateful he feared it would be a lot worse. He then heard someone approach and then the door opened and a short white-furred echidna female with dark hair looked out at him.
"Can I help you?" She said.
Harry was a bit off-balance he didn't know this woman. "This is Krysta-Zen's house is it not?" He said smiling.
"It is, she's off to town. James to get groceries."?
Harry sighed feeling relieved. "I'm Harry Martinez, her nephew. I am sure she has mentioned me."
"Oh! Yes, of course, come in. I thought you looked familiar." The female said. "Come in!" She said opening the door letting him step inside.
"Thank you," Harry said as he stepped in and closed the door. "So.. I am afraid I am at a loss as to whom you are. The last letter I got from Krystal made no mention of a houseguest, but that was several months ago."
"Let's just say I'm your sister in law, my name is Diane-Kay."
Harry was a bit shocked he didn't know what to say he never figured his brother could even find a mate let alone attract one.
"Krysta sent a letter a week ago telling you but I doubt you got it." She said.
"When?" Was all Harry could croak out as he processed this.
"We met three years ago at one of James' shows in Rockhollow. We kept it on the down-low until he proposed to me. He was on the road so much that not even Krysta knew about us."
"Ok that makes sense," Harry said, processing this new information. "So, what do you do?"
"I teach primary school in Carday, we're on summer break right now so I don't have much to do at the moment except enjoy the peace and quiet. So what brings you here out of the blue?"
"There was some trouble. I was in the middle of it and I have to answer for it." Harry replied. "If things go south I'll either be here for a bit until I figure out what to do or I'll be incarcerated," Harry said. "I'm hoping that's not the case but I am weighing my options.
"What did you do?" Diane asked.
"My ship had an experimental battle computer placed on it," Harry said flatly. "The A.I. was faulty, it went berserk and destroyed and crippled some ships. A lot of people died."
"That was your ship?" Diane gasped. "We heard reports but they never stated what exactly happened.'
Harry nodded. "I'm not surprised they are obscuring some of the details. I probably shouldn't be discussing it very much."
"That's pretty much the short version, not much else to say, I was able to stop it but only after it was too late." Harry sighed. "I was wondering if you had a place I could stay while I visit."
"I'm sure Krysta will be thrilled and we have room. I don't think it will be a problem."
"James might have a problem."
"It's not his house. I'd be glad to have you over and get to know you. I'm sure you have lots of stories I'd love to hear."
"Not really, unless you want to hear about two brothers fighting a lot." Harry said dryly. "James and I never really got along all that well. Krysta spent most of her time trying to keep us from killing each other."
Diane went to a cooling unit and pulled out a beer and gave it to him. "Oh, it can't have been all that bad. Although most of what I hear about you I hear from your letters. James doesn't really talk about you much either."
"He's probably still pissed I trashed his hovercar." Harry said opening the bottle and taking a swig of the beer.
"He actually has gotten it repaired and restored it's in the barn. He keeps it in there during the summer months so the paint doesn't get bleached." Diane said grabbing a beer for herself and sitting down across from him. "What exactly did you do to it."
"I stole it, and then dumped it down a ravine because I could," Harry smirked. "Looking back it may not have been one of the better decisions."
"I'm sure, being a starship Captain now, you've changed your ways."
"Well of course," Harry said.
"I think you might be surprised with James." Diane said. "We are very happy together and he's getting a lot of recognition for his art and talents."
"Well good maybe he is a bit less of a jerk than." Harry said taking a swig of his beer and then hearing the sound of a repulsor engine pull up to the drive.
Diane got up and looked out the window. "Oh good their home already."
Harry took a deep breath and waited for them to enter.
Krysta came through carrying two bags full of groceries obviously carrying on her conversation with his brother as she came through the door. She looked good, maybe a bit older but still as he remembered her.
"I don't want you bothering someone else with my problems, you have your shows you have to go to and I get that, I'll manage if something falls apart here."
"Krysta, you had a hole in the roof that nearly ate through the entire house, you could have called a handyman or a carpenter or someone to fix it." James said sternly carrying a few more bags and setting them on the counter near the door. "I have already got someone lined up to help you take care of the place if you'd stop being so damn stub…' he said as he suddenly spotted who was in the house.
"I'm not being stubborn, I just don't want people in my business," Krysta said dismissively then noticing James was staring at something. She followed his gaze and after a moment of recognition. "HARRY!" She said running up to him Harry quickly stood up as she slammed into him embracing him tightly the beads in her spines jangling with every movement. "It's been forever when did you get here! How long can you stay? Oh it's so good to see you again."
"It's good to see you too Krysta, I'll be here for a week or so. Mind if I crash here?"
"Of course! Of course, we don't have a room but you can use the hide-a-bed in the living room." She said excitedly. "Have you ate yet we just got back getting food for dinner."
"No I haven't but I'd be glad to join you."
"Good it's not like you had a choice, why don't you and your brother get reacquainted I'll go get your bed ready." She said quickly heading for the leaving room.
"Dear, could you go help her. I'd like a moment alone with Harry please." James said.
"Of course." Diane said getting up and heading to the living room.
"So the Galant Commander has ascended from on high to mingle with us commoners for once." James said flatly.
"And the starving artist seems to be eating a bit to well." Harry quipped pointing out that although his half brother was a bit taller and stockier than him he did seem to put on a bit of weight.
"Well, you tend to do that when you get credits for extra luxuries and you are on the road a lot." James replied.
"So I've heard." Harry replied. "Good to see you've let it go to your belly and not your head."
"This is my home, Harry. Unlike you, I never felt a need to leave it." James said walking over to the cooler to grab one of his beers and open it. "The peace and quiet help me with my sculptures, I've been all over this planet a few times now seen most of the sites. Met a lot of people who've offered me places that are palaces compared to this place but I'm none happier than when I'm here."
"I'm glad you are doing well." Harry said sincerely.
"Thanks, so why are you here out of the blue all of a sudden?"
"Got caught up in something I didn't want to be in and I'm probably going to be lynched for it." Harry replied taking a drink of his own beer. "Although I'm not really the one at fault. I promised Krysta I would come by if I was in the area, so here I am."
"I suppose I won't have any say in it." James replied. "The living room couch had better do I'm not giving up my den, because it used to be your room."
"I don't really care, I have bigger where I'm staying now." Harry chuckled. "The living room is bigger than my quarters on my ship so it won't bother me."
"If you have time, could you go through your stuff, Krysta wouldn't let me throw it out and it's been sitting in the barn loft for a decade. It would be nice if you could do that."
"I'll try." Harry said. "I'll be here in the afternoons and evenings I'll make time. Do you have a connection to the world net here?"
"We do. It was hell trying to get Krysta to go for it until she found out about all the media that can be watched and books she can get access too. You got some work to do?"
"Yeah not much, just have things I need to sign off on from my crew."
"There's no password, just sign on there's no one out here." James shrugged. "If you are crashing in the living room you'd better get used to the girls watching their shows in the evening. I usually turn in early.."
"Still?" Harry said.
"I still get up early." James said, shrugging.
"Ok well, if you can get me up too I would appreciate it." Harry said.
"What would you two like for supper!" Krysta said, suddenly appearing in the kitchen again. "I can make anything."
"What about your Gulat grub fajitas?" Harry said. "I'll help."
"That's a first." James groused.
"Hey there's a lot about me that's changed, I think you'll be surprised." Harry said standing up. "Where's the peppers and the knives i'll get to cutting."
"Oh thank you!" Krysta said. "You don't have to."
"I insist, plus I am getting hungry." Harry said going to the sink and washing his hands. "The food isn't going to make itself."
The next day Harry was seated in the round high ceilinged room of the inquiry board as the three judges walked into the room. He and Captain styles stood at attention as they entered. One was a Cabarran male, Avian female and Altarian Male, all from the admiralty walked in and took a seat. Harry didn't recognise any of them. Only their name's Kelb, Conroy and Egorov. This part was just the opening formalities but it still made Harry tense, he was watching everything he did trying to remain the picture of calm.
The one in the center Admiral Conroy announced that they could be seated.
"Commander Harold Martinez, Commanding officer of the U.S.S. Raptor, do you understand the reasons you have been called to this inquiry?"
"I do sir." Harry replied.
"Due to the disastrous events of the Epsilon Three tests, involving ship destroying and or disabling several of other starships causing the deaths of hundreds of men and women. I hope you understand the seriousness of the potential charges that could possibly be leveled at you Commander."
"I do." Harry said.
"Very well, you may be seated." Admiral Conroy said cooly resting her hands on the bench and interlacing her feathered talons. "Lets begin with the initial questions shall we? Just cover your side of what happened."
Harry took a slow deep breath and nodded. "Here we go." He thought to himself.
"You did fine, Harry." Stiles said slapping him on the back. "You answered every question quickly and without tripping up."
"I feel like I got put through the ringer," Harry said unbuttoning his dress tunic trying to catch his breath.
"Naw they break out the needles and hot pokers tomorrow." Stiles chuckled.
Harry looked at him horrified.
"Just being honest with you." Stiles said. "Look just stick to the facts, and don't slip up they are looking for any slip up that they can find, go get a drink, relax and get a good night's rest."
Harry nodded a small drink and some food before he headed home, he couldn't imbibe too much, he had to still take the gyrocycle home, he didn't need to be showing up to the inquiry looking like a terminal case of road rash.
"Same time tomorrow?" Harry asked.
Stiles nodded. "You got it." He smiled. "Have a good night Harry you heading home?"
"How is the family?"
"They are good, my brother seems a little annoyed I'm around but that's not unexpected." Harry replied.
Stiles nodded. "Well enjoy your time while you are here, if we clear this it's right back to work."
Harry nodded and Stiles went along on his way. Harry headed for the officer's lounge and made his way right towards the bar. A Taurid, a bovine like race, was running the bar. Harry ordered a drink and then sat and nursed it for a few moments deep in thought.
"Wow the nerve of some people, I've been here the whole time and you can't even say hi?" He heard a familiar voice behind him and smiled.
"Nora, Nora Kinsach." He said spinning to see the Blond Cabarran female behind him. "What are you doing here."
"I'm on shore leave, we just got back from the outer reaches." She said folding her arms in front of her. "I saw you when you came in I thought you'd come over, you looked right at me, but you just stormed right to the bar."
"Sorry, I haven't had the greatest of days, come here." He said walking up to her and they embraced each other. "It's good to see you again, it's been a long time."
"Likewise, how have you been Harry?" Nora asked smiling.
"Well pretty good until recently."
"I heard you finally got a command."
"Great." Nora said. "What class?"
"It's a new one, Predator. Only one so far." Harry said.
"It's fairly small."
"Hey nothing about that, I love the Intrepid for that reason." She smiled. "It's homey with just enough room that you can have a little privacy. Why don't you join me out on the patio instead of here looking gloomy."
"Sure." Harry said following her out onto the patio that was a bit less crowded where they sat in the shade of a patio table.
"So what brings you here?" Nora asked.
Harry took a bigger drink and then sighed. "I am in deep shit."
Nora laughed. "How so."
"Well you've been gone but you should have heard about the disastrous war games a week ago," Harry said
Nora's amusement suddenly faded from her expression. "You were involved in that?"
"I was on the ship responsible for it." Harry said.
"Ohhh." Nora said. "That was you?"
"The computer they installed went haywire and decided to take things a bit too far." Harry said. "That's about the most I can say on the matter I'm currently in an inquiry about it."
"Damn, sorry to hear that." Nora said. "Must have been terrible."
"You have no idea."
"That puts a damper on things."
"Anyways, where are you staying?" Nora asked.
"At my Family's place. You?"
"I got a room over at the beach for the week, been getting a lot of surf and sand." Nora said. "Tell you what we could catch up, mind if I tag along?"
"Well we don't have a lot of room, I'd have to bring you back." Harry said.
"I remember you said the place had a porch in the back, I haven't changed much I'll sleep out there I don't care, I could use the changeup. We have some catching up to do."
"Yeah we do." Harry said, finishing his drink. "Meet me at Transporter pad K6 in about 30 minutes? I'd be glad to have you along."
"Sure." Nora said smiling and getting up. "I'll see you there."
Harry had changed out of his dress uniform and packed it away in his duffle and was back in his casual clothes he was waiting by the transporter terminal when he heard Nora's whistle and saw her waving at him as she approached at a jog dressed in a blouse and jeans. "Told you i'd make it."
"That you did."
Nora smiled slyly. "So want to hit up a few bars in your home town and give the locals what for? Like the good ole days?"
Harry smiled. "As fun as that sounds I am in deep enough as it is, I don't need to make the hole deeper."
"Phooey I could use a good dust-up, my first officer won't let me off the ship half the damn time." She chuckled. "What about you?"
"What do you think?" Harry said smirking.
"Ha! Well either your guy wants you out of the way. Or he likes to play it safe."
"Maybe a little of both." Harry shrugged. "I don't mind going on away missions, plus he knows the ship better than I do. Hell he was part of the team that built it."
"Well I have all evening to hear it." Nora smiled. "Let's get going the sun isn't getting any higher in the sky."
"Right." Harry said entering the destination into the controls and the number of people in transit. "Let's go."
In a matter of moments, they were over in Ketha province, they gained an hour in time Harry got the Gyrocycle out of the parking area and brought it to the pad.
"Wow, nice ride." Nora said, impressed. "How much did that cost."
"You don't want to know." Harry said, activating it and then trying to get the rumble seat to extend. "I hope you remember how to stay on one of these."
Nora laughed. "Don't insult me, Harry."
"Hey it took me a bit to get used to riding one again." Harry chuckled. "It came back eventually." He then slung his duffle over his back and climbed into the seat. "Been a while since we did this."
Nora smiled. "Yeah, it sure has." She said climbing onto the vehicle behind him and wrapping her arms around his middle.
Harry gunned the throttle and they were quickly speeding down the road and after a short ride, they pulled into the drive at Harry's family home. Harry saw his aunt sitting on the porch who came out to greet them.
"Who's your friend?" She asked.
"This is Nora, we're old friends from way back." Harry said. "She wanted to spend some time with me while I'm here."
"I don't mind having guests, but we are a bit full up at the moment." Kara said apologetically. "I'm Kara-Zen, Harry's aunt and you are?"
"Nora Kinsach." Nora said, introducing herself. "It's ok, I was wanting to bunk under the stars on the porch if you don't mind." Nora said smiling. "If you don't mind that is."
"No of course not." Kara said smiling. "We might have to get a couple of extra things at the market. James hasn't got back yet, I wasn't expecting more guests but any friend of Harry's is welcome."
"Where's he gone off too now?" Harry asked.
"He teaches an art class at the community center in town, once a week" Kara replied.
"He took the hovercar instead of walking?"
Harry shook his head. "You know I could use a walk. It's only a few kilometers. How much do you need."
"Just a few things." Kara said. "I'll get the list."
"You know if you'd get a replicator you could cut down the number of trips you guys make every month." Harry said patiently.
"I won't have that infernal contraption in my house Harry besides James said the generator wouldn't be able to handle it." She hollered from inside the house.
"You could always get a better power generator…" Harry said. "It's… not like you can't get one. It's a basic need, all you have to do is.."
"Harry, if it works I am not going to replace it." Kara said scoldingly exiting the house and handing him a handwritten list of ingredients and a small canvas carry bag. "We had this argument years ago and I am still not going to change."
"I'm not arguing I am just saying it's a basic necessity you can request it no problem is all." Harry said smiling.
"Go." Kara said shoving the list and bag handles in his hand and then gently slapping his cheek. "If you are going to hoof it you better get going. Now shoo." She said gesturing at them.
"All right we'll be back in an hour or so." Harry said turning and walking back up the drive.
"Oh, I like her." Nora snickered following him and giving him a friendly slug in the arm. "I wish you'd introduced us back when we were in the academy."
"I didn't bring you because I didn't want to get into a fistfight with James." Harry said.
"I suppose that's settled down over the years?" Nora asked, falling in step with him.
Harry shrugged. "Maybe. That remains to be seen."
They walked for a bit before Nora spoke up again. "So, I can tell it's bugging you. Maybe let me in a little bit on what's eating you."
Harry didn't say anything but frowned. "I've been grilled enough today if you don't mind I just want to relax before I go through it again tomorrow."
"Ah come on you know if you don't vent of a little of it your just going to be pissy the rest of the night. Come on we're best friends you can tell me."
Harry sighed. "Fine but this stays between us."
"Lips are sealed."
"I had a bad feeling about it from the beginning." Harry started. "The Raptor, is dangerous, it's bleeding-edge technology hybridized with alien hardware, built on top whatever else could be thrown into it. It's unstable, unpredictable and way more dangerous than it needs to be. You should see her in action Nora, at full force she just rips vessels in half no matter what they are made of, like they are made of cardboard. All of this is at my command. It's astonishing and terrifying all at once." Harry said. "And here comes Fleet Command thinking, hey let's put an untested battle computer in it and see what happens." He laughed darkly. "Well they sure found out didn't they?" He said kicked a rock down the road.
"My Engineer Fara, she was bold enough to speak out against it." Harry continued. "It was like somehow deep down she knew it was going to go wrong she just couldn't voice it properly other than … borderline insubordination."
"What about you?"
"Me? Despite my reservations wich I had made known, I was trying to keep an open mind about it." Harry growled.
"Sounds like you were between a rock and a hard place." Nora surmised.
"In a sense, I mean it was Admiral Leyton's project, what was I going to do say no? I voiced my concern and it was ignored, I logged it not much else I can do at that point."
Nora nodded. "I can see why you are upset."
Harry snorted. "Upset barely scratches the surface of how I feel. Especially now in the aftermath."
They walked for a bit until Harry got his thoughts back in order. "The worst part is when that computer went berserk, it killed people I knew on the Aether. I'd pulled a brief stint on it while my own ship was in the lurch for a few months due to another incident I don't want to get into. They were good people Nora, a lot of young officers with promising careers and lives ahead of them and they were just snuffed out and even worse it probably ruined a relationship I'd built with their Captain."
"Captain De'sol?" Nora asked.
"I've met and worked a mission with her ship before, very fascinating woman." Nora said.
Harry nodded but didn't add to it.
"Did she survive?"
"One of the few that did," Harry said. "Let's just say we're… not on speaking terms at the moment."
"I'm sure being the target of her ire isn't pleasant at all." Nora whistled. "Sheesh Harry you really have gotten yourself into a mess haven't you."
Harry nodded. "Look… that's enough for now." He smiled wanly, "Can we talk about something else, it's been all over the Fednet Broadcasts and the Network for the last week if you really want to know you can look into it."
"Oh I will, is there anything I can do to help you?" She asked. "You know I got your back."
"Captain Stiles is planetside and is attending the Inquiry with me." Harry said. "There's not much else that can be done at this point."
"So what was the Outer reach like?" Harry finally asked.
"We studied a few stars, quite a few subspace anomalies, discovered a few new civilizations." Nora said. "it was a blast overall. We brought back a lot of data for fleet HQ to look over."
"That's great." Harry smiled. "Then what are they having you do after that?"
"Well just back to normal patrols for a while, the Intrepid is in for a refit so we're all on shore leave right now, then it's back to the normal grind till they send us back out into the frontier again." Nora said smiling. "So you know, normal stuff. What have you been up to other than, well.."
"Mainly border patrol, we've been getting a bit more exploration missions lately." Harry replied "But mostly it's chasing Urtheans and other Riff Raff off. Occasionally they send us off to fetch something from some abandoned outpost in the middle of nowhere."
"Do you like it?"
Harry shrugged his shoulders. "I like the people I work with, they are good people for the most part. A motley lot but they make one hell of a team."
"Well that's good, so you like your crew just not the assignment."
"I've learned to accept it." Harry replied. "I had a chance to get out and I didn't take it. Maybe it was for the best considering how things played out."
Nora nodded. "Well not everyone gets a dream assignment. It's a crapshoot on what you'll end up with."
"Honestly I was surprised I ended up with it, I was on the Neosho and we were heading home several months ago when I got it." Harry said.
"Look Harry, I know you." Nora said. "I'm sure you did everything you could. Just grit your teeth and get through this, if you didn't do anything wrong you'll be just fine." Nora said. "We all go through this at some point in our careers."
"What'd you do?"
"Ugh lets just say it was a first contact mess that one of my crew members caused." Nora sighed. "I try not to dwell on it. It's over and behind me."
Harry smiled seeming to lighten up a bit. "Well, that gives me some hope."
Nora slapped him on the back. "You'll do just fine, as long as you kept our head and did all you could you got nothing to worry about. They just like to rattle your cage and make it all scary just to see if you'll slip up and are not being truthful with them." Nora chuckled. "Besides if you remember you are the big hero who saved everyone's asses a while back. It's not like they can just publicly crucify you."
"I'm not a Hero." Harry said flatly. "I pulled something out of my ass and got lucky. I was just doing my duty
"I always loved that about you Harry, you never let things like that go to your head, well it may not mean a lot to you but it does to everyone else." Nora smiled. "I think you forget that sometimes."
Harry grunted and noticed that they were starting to pass a few houses near the settlement. "Well, that didn't take long."
"So is this where you went to school when you were little/"
"Yeap, good ole Nova Springs." Harry said. "Haven't been here in a long time. Maybe about five hundred live in town. You'll probably get a few looks, not too many offworlders come out this way."
"That doesn't bother me." Nora replied. "Thanks for the heads up though."
They were soon in the middle of town and located the store, it didn't take too long for Harry to round up the few items and they were back on their way. Nora bought a case of beer and pulled out one for her and Harry on the way back.
They talked about various things and reminisced of their times together at the academy which made the time pass fairly quickly. When they got back to the homestead Harry saw that James' car was in the drive. Harry figured James must have left town before they had and beat them home. He'd also had a few beers on the way back and was definitely feeling it too, much to Nora's amusement.
Harry offered to help prepare supper but Krystal insisted she does it. So he and Nora sat on the porch and drank a few more beers.
"Sheesh Harry, that's your sixth one, you might want to slow down." Nora chuckled.
"It's just beer, I haven't hit my limit yet." Harry said. "Besides, it's helping my mood."
"Well showing up tomorrow hung over won't help your case." Nora said polishing off another of her own and fishing out another beer from the case. "I, on the other hand, don't have that problem."
"Who's your friend, Harry?" He heard James speak up behind him.
Harry looked up and saw his brother wearing shorts and a ratty t-shirt drying off his hair, he must have got out of the shower.
"This is Nora Kensach, she's an old friend of mine from the Academy, we're catching up on old times. Nora this is my brother James."
"A pleasure." James said nodding.
"Likewise, care for a beer? They are still pretty cold?" Nora offered.
"Sure." James said and she tossed him one and he caught it. "Thanks."
Nora nodded. "So you are the infamous James Martinez. Thought you'd be a bit taller."
"Infamous?!" James snorted at Harry.
Harry only shrugged.
James laughed. "The only thing I'm infamous for is trying to corral the hooligan he used to be when he was younger." He said taking a drink. "I think he forgets what a punk he used to be."
"I haven't forgotten anything." Harry said, also taking a drink.
James scoffed and leaned on the railing on the porch. "Neither have I. You know how long it took me to fish that hovercar out of the damn canyon you dumped it in?"
"No, but I am sure you are going to tell me." Harry said rolling his eyes.
"Asshole. Three months because you just had to do it right before the rainy season." James grumbled. "I was lucky the wreck got hung up on a rock and didn't wash out to the ocean."
"Well, I am sure fixing it back up wasn't beyond your more than capable talents." Harry replied.
James grinned. "I am not sure if you are trying to piss me off or pay me a compliment."
Harry merely shrugged with his best poker face. Nora couldn't help but stifle a laugh.
" I bet you two used to have quite the row or two when you were younger," Nora added
James grinned. "Yeah, the little punk always thought he could take me. We probably broke this banister a dozen times falling through it."
"Ah well, you should have seen him in the academy." Nora chuckled.
"Nora…." Harry said tersely.
"Oh lighten up we are just visiting Harry." She chuckled.
"So.." James asked. "Are you in the fleet too?"
Nora nodded. "Yeah, A Captain to boot too."
"A.. Cabarran right?" James askes snapping his fingers.
Nora nodded. "Last time I checked."
"I had someone from there buy a few of my pieces last fall. Very friendly fellow took my wife and I out to dinner as well. I would like to see the place someday he sure talked it up a lot." James said making small talk.
"It's a bit too wet for my liking but it's home." Nora shrugged. "Now here, I could get used to this prairie in every direction, rolling hills, blue skies and ocean not too far away, lots and lots of land. You grow up on Cabarra you get your island and everyone you have share it with. Most of the planet is an ocean."
"Before I forget. Harry what is your schedule tomorrow?" James asked.
"Get grilled from 0900 to 12. Then come here and probably do this. Why?"
"The irrigation well is on the fritz and I could use a hand fixing it. I can do it on my own but if you don't mind getting your hands dirty I can get it done quicker."
"I thought that well wasn't worth using?" Harry asked.
"By us? Hell no. But Krysta's Sun Fruits like it and it broke down the day before you showed up." James said. "If you help I'll take you to and from the telepad. Deal?"
"Sure." Harry said. "I don't mind helping I just need to check and see what Nora wants to do?"
"Let me use the Monocycle and let me worry about me, Harry." She grinned. "I'll be just fine."
"Thanks, It was nice to not have to pull your spines for once." James smirked.
"May as well pull my weight if I can. You are letting me stay here after all." Harry said shrugging.
"Krysta is letting you stay here." James said, reminding him. "If it was my house you'd be out in the barn. Where are you going to crash, we are a bit full up at the moment."
"Actually out here on my bedroll and I don't mind," Nora said. "I'm on vacation and looking forward to sleeping under the stars."
"You sure?" James said.
"Ok, have it your way." James shrugged. "How long are you planning on staying?"
"As long as he needs me, I suppose," Nora said, smiling at Harry. "However you two should do your little project tomorrow, I'll get some riding in and swing by for supper. If you don't mind."
James shrugged. "It's only a problem if Krysta says it is."
"James?" Diane said as she came outside. "Could you help me with the dishes?"
"Yeah, I'll be right in." James said. "Duty calls. I'll holler when supper is ready."
Harry nodded and he noticed Nora had got up and was walking out into the yard. He followed her.
"This is a nice place, Harry." Nora said. "I could probably retire to a place like this and be happy you know?" She said taking a drink.
Harry shrugged. "I mean, I guess if you like rural… boredom."
Nora just laughed at him. "Yeah, I do. I'm not ready for it quite yet, just saying it would be nice is all."
"I don't think I could handle it, never could. Great place to grow up." Harry said taking a drink. "Just don't want to end up here."
"What are your plans for the future?"
"You know, I mean seriously you don't have any other goals like having a family? You just want to stick to your career?" Nora asked.
"Never really thought about it." Harry said. "I like what I do. What else could I ask for?"
"I suppose I shouldn't be too surprised." Nora chuckled.
"You shouldn't be, you know me better than most." Harry smirked.
"Yeah, I do." Nora smiled. "I'm glad I ran into you today Harry. It's been way too long since we've seen each other. I have really missed you."
"I missed you too, Nora." He smiled. "It's hard getting together with old friends when you have a ship to Captain."
"That it is." Nora nodded.
"Supper's on." James called from the doorway.
"I hope you like echidna cuisine." Harry chuckled.
Harry sat rigid in his seat as he watched the internal video logs of the events play out on the screen. His worst moment was for all to see when he nearly throttled Doctor Sarne after the computer had killed one of his men. He had to admit at that point under the circumstances he could of handled it better but watching the life of one of his crew be so casually snuffed out by that machine nearly pushed him over the edge.
"Commander Martinez." Admiral Conroy said as the lights came on. "What exactly were your motivations for activating the Raptor's self destruct protocol?"
He stood up as he was being addressed.
"At the time we could not get the Epsilon three to respond to any commands from the bridge or engineering. It had taken complete control of the ship after it had attacked the other vessels in the skirmish." Harry answered lately. "Not wanting to endanger any further lives I believed that destruction of the Raptor would have been preferable to further loss of life."
"Commander." Admiral Kelb spoke up. "Are you aware of what little records we have from that incident on your own vessel are because the data files were corrupted and not recoverable?"
"I was not aware of this," Harry said.
"A substantial amount of data was missing from the Raptor's flight recorder and it appears to be deliberately scrubbed. Do you have a reason for why this is?"
"No, I don't I wouldn't condone such a thing." Harry replied.
"Then you can understand Commander, why we would find your reason to destroy the Raptor a bit suspicious?" Admiral Egorov spoke up with his heavily accented Altarian voice. "What was it you are trying to hide?"
"I am not hiding anything sirs." Harry said feeling a bit annoyed at this accusation. "My reasons are as I stated. I would rather have given the lives of myself and my crew if it meant stopping that .. Monster that Doctor Sarne created from doing any harm."
"Then who would have scrubbed the records commander."
"The Epsilon three. It stated that its intent was to see itself pass the test by any means necessary."
"You are blaming the computer itself?" Conroy asked.
"It was a sentient artificial intelligence acting under its one motivations to preserve itself." Harry said sticking to its guns. "It made its own intentions very clear to me."
"Commander, forgive us but it feels like you are trying to shift the blame here." Leon said leaning back in his chair and steepling his fingers.
"Dr. Sarne stated that the Epsilon three was capable of making its own decisions and that it could operate a ship better than any crew. He stated that ships wouldn't need people on them risking their lives with his system." Harry took a breath. "I shudder to think what might have happened if the test had been successful. Besides, if you are so convinced as to me being responsible for it, why did I disengage the self-destruct if I was so committed to covering up my trail?"
"That's enough Commander," Conroy said patiently. "Admiral Kleb was simply stating that from the outside the whole thing looks very suspicious."
"If I may Sirs," Stiles spoke up.
"You may Captain."
"Commander Martinez has never demonstrated anything but the utmost integrity with any of my dealings with him and his prior commanding officers have nothing but glowing praise for him." Stiles said. "If he says he had nothing to do with the doctored records then he stands by that."
"Your vote of confidence is appreciated Captain, but I'm sure you understand how this looks as well." Conroy responded cooly.
"If he knew about it he would have reported it to me, anything that has remotely been out of order on that ship he reports it, regardless of it being something major as the warp coil needing alignment clear down to something minor like the carpet coming up on one of the crew decks. If he knows about it, I know about it. If you want proof of this I have it in his reports."
Harry looked gratefully over to Stiles.
Conroy drummed her taloned fingers and looked over at Kelb and Egorov who nodded. Apparently there was something discussed that Harry was not privy too.
"Very well, we will have our Computer Experts re-examine the records as well as the core on your own vessel. If we find any evidence that you were responsible for the tampering you will be facing criminal charges."
"I didn't do it and I have nothing to hide." Harry stated firmly.
"For your sake we hope so." Conroy said. "This session will be convening early today while we reassess our findings. We will reconvene tomorrow at the same time. You are free to go for today."
The three Admirals stood up and headed out a door in the back of the room.
Stiles looked a bit exasperated but merely shrugged. "Well that was unexpected."
"Yeah tell me about it." Harry said flustered.
"Hey let it go, if you didn't do it, you didn't do it." Stiles said. "I believe you, I'm pretty sure that faith isn't misplaced."
"Thanks." Harry said.
Stiles gathered up his things and put them in their satchel. "We'll hit it hard tomorrow."
On the ride home, Harry was just scowling at nothing in particular as he sat in the passenger seat of James' hovercar.
"I've got to swing by my shop in Nova Springs and get some tools we'll need."
Harry grunted staring off into the horizon at nothing in particular.
"So I take it, your thing went well today than?"
Harry grunted again and rubbed his forehead.
James sighed. "All right, we're still going to make the stop."
Harry grunted and James rolled his eyes.
The hovercar pulled into town and up to what looked like an old mechanics shop that appeared to be retrofitted to be some sort of gallery lit up with neon lighting. It was enough to make Harry look up from his funk as he heard James get out of the vehicle.
"Are you coming or not?" James asked as he fished for his keys.
Harry, his curiosity slightly peaked got out of the car and followed behind. James entered the building and turned on the lights inside were several sculptures made out of metal and other junk although, Harry hated to admit it, they were way better than he remembered them.
"What do you think?" James said beaming.
Harry looked one of them over and spotted another he swore he had seen in a shop on Starbase 186. "I see you took my advice and started resin coating them so they last longer."
"Yeah, I did you were right," James said. "Do you want a fuckin' medal?"
"More like an apology you beaned me with a spanner when I suggested it." Harry said, raising a brow. "I still have a scar."
"Fine, I am sorry. You were right. Drop it already." James said flustered.
Harry just nodded and followed him inside.
"You know that's what always pissed me off about you, little brother you always have to be right. I am sure that hasn't changed has it."
"It comes with being a starship Captain. You have to be on your game."
"If that's true then why are you in trouble?" James said. "Don't worry the girls filled me in."
"I didn't do anything wrong it's just bad things went down on my watch and they are looking for someone to lynch for it," Harry said darkly.
"Well I heard a bit of what happened," James said going to his tool bench and grabbing a box and some tools. "Close to a thousand casualties is pretty horrendous," James said. "Got to be pretty rough for mister big hero. You make it sound like you broke a few eggs."
Harry tensed as he felt a flash of anger rise inside him. "I lost some people I knew." He snapped. "Can you for once stop trying to piss me off."
"Sorry bro." James said with a tone that stated otherwise. "Just trying to talk is all."
"Do you have your tools? Let's go and get this over with." Harry growled before storming out.
"Yeap." James said, glaring at Harry.
Harry left the shop and got back into the hovercar slamming the door. James carefully placed the toolbox in the back seat and got in the driver's side; he glared at Harry as he resumed his scowling into the distance. They were soon on the way back home. James took the car off the drive aways to where the pump sat on top of the hill. The two brothers didn't say a word as James went about removing the outer casings to get to the pump.
Harry finally broke the silence. "I can't believe you are still using this relic."
"It works." James grunted as he started checking the pump. "and usually easy to fix."
"Are you sure a rat didn't chew through the power cable?"
James pointed to what looked like a metal pipe with a removable sheath that housed the power cable. "Ran a line and sunk it five years ago." James beamed. "No more fried rats and getting new extension cables."
"Ah." Harry said nodding approvingly. "So what do you think it is?"
"It's not the motor I checked that yesterday it's just not pumping." James said.
"Mind if I take a look?"
James shrugged and stepped back.
Harry grabbed a spanner and quickly disconnected the intake hose. "Ah ha." He said taking his finger and reaching into the front of the pump and pulling out some decaying matter. "Looks like it sucked some junk out of the well."
"Shit that means the screen is shot," James growled. "You work on getting that junk out of the mechanics and I'll pull the hose up."
Harry nodded and quickly set to work. With a task at hand, it helped keep his dark thoughts at bay and he worked quickly reminiscing on how much he missed being an engineer and getting his hands dirty. As James grunted reeling in the intake line he got the pump housing off and removed the impeller to get every last bit of junk out of it.
" Damn it it's rusted through," James said. "Going to need to replace it. I have wire mesh in the barn."
"What about that coating?" Harry asked. "If it is covered it won't rust"
James snapped his finger and nodded. "You know what. I may have some ready for sculpture and I am getting sick of fixing this damn thing."
"No time like the present." Harry chimed in. "Everything looks good on the pump." He said checking the gasket finding it in good condition and putting the impeller back on with the assembly.
James unhooked the filter and dropped the hose to the ground. "I'll be back in a few." James said quickly hoofing it back towards the house with the intake.
Harry got the pump back together then removed the cover of the well and grabbed a small torch from the toolbox and peered down into it. He could see the gravel bottom through the water and it looked clear. Harry reasoned it must have been a windy day the last time James messed with the pump and some debris got blown down into it. He looked up and around the well seeing that the grass had been mowed down around the well. He shook his head in wonderment of his brother's carelessness. Some things never changed. At least with him being here he could offset some of his brother's lack of foresight and keep things running for a long time after he left. He wondered what else was breaking down around the farm. He put the cover back on the well and then went to the hovercar and opened the driver's side door and sat on the seat and waited for his brother to get back.
However, as he sat his dark mood suddenly started to crawl back.
Worse yet it was followed by a memory.
"Captain the Epsilon Three has just acknowledged Admiral Leyton's fleet call to begin the test engagement."
"Tell them to veer off, warn them off if you can."
Terri worked her buttons quickly and didn't respond and Harry got out of his chair and went back to assist. "What's the problem Ms. Lu? Tell them to veer off."
"I'm trying sir!" Terri snapped. "No response, I'm totally locked out."
The sound of the ablative armor engaging resounded through the hull and the red alert sounded.
"Captain, we have gone to Attack mode!" Jakar announced. "All weapons are going hot."
"Those ships won't have a chance!" Harry snapped.
Harry rubbed his eyes and groaned he was going on this trip down memory lane rather he wanted to or not.
All he could do was watch as his ship closed in on the Aether. He screamed at Sarne to do something to stop his monster. The next thing remembered was seeing the volley of fully armed torpedoes screaming towards the Aether.
He could do nothing. All he could do was think of Jayna. In the blink of an eye the Aether was shot full of holes and so many lives had been snuffed out because of his monster, the Raptor. The images came strong and powerful and overwhelmed him and he started to sob.
James had completed the repair and was making his way back when he saw Harry sitting with his head in his hands.
Not sure what was going on he hollered. "Hey, I got it! Let's get this thing going."
Harry looked up at him with a strange expression that he could see him strain to force it into a scowl and he wiped at his eyes. Something didn't seem right.
"You ok Harry?"
"I'm fine since when do you fucking care anyway?" Harry said gruffly. "Lets just get this over with."
James glared at him, quickly put the filter on the hose, lowered it into the well, and then started the pump. After a few moments water started to flow down into the trench to the garden.
"I am so glad you came back just to be a total prick." James said.
"Shut the fuck up Jimmy." Harry growled clenching his fists.
"I know things between us have.. Been terrible but I thought maybe we could move past it. Yet here we are."
"I told you to shut up!" Harry snapped visibly trembling in anger.
James knew what was coming so he started to roll up his sleeves. "What you want to hit me? Is that going to make you feel better? Let's go you little piece of shit, your ass whooping has been a long time coming."
Harry screamed and slammed him right in his midsection and they went careening down the hill and into the water channel. They tumbled end over end exchanging blows and equally getting pummeled by the stone laden sluice until they tumbled down into the mud. Both stood up spitting out mud at the bottom.
"Don't you even start to act like you give a damn about me." Harry staggered around trying to get the dirt out of his eyes. "My whole life all you ever did was treat me like garbage."
"It's not like you gave me much reason not to." James growled getting back to his feet. "Always disrespecting, me running your mouth!"
Harry let out another cry and charged him landing a solid punch to James' jaw. James was a bit staggered but brought his knee up hard into Harry's ribs and sent him staggering back.
"Son of a bitch, that actually hurt you ass!" James said feeling a few teeth a bit lose from the blow and spitting blood.
"Stop running your mouth and fight Jimmy boy." Harry gasped putting his fists up.
James stepped forward and Harry lunged at him but Jim was ready. Harry's punch missed and he slipped in the mud and James cracked him on the side head and he went down in the mud. Before Harry could get up James had hefted him up and spun him around and decked him across the snout and yelped when he realized he'd broke a finger. Harry staggered backward and fell on his backside in the mud and then laughed as his brother fell on his face. James sat up cradling his injured hand with the other and started to laugh as well at how stupid the whole fight had been. All those years he'd wanted to get payback for Harry wrecking his car and now here they were two grown echidnas making fools of themselves.
"I'm sorry," Harry said between laughs. "For everything. It was just after mom died.."
"I know Harry, she was my mother too." James said wincing as he set his finger.
"You changed…" Harry said.
"We both did brother," James said. "It wasn't all bad, don't you remember we used to do everything together when we were kids?"
Harry blew some blood out his nose and nodded.
"When I lost my dad, it was the worse thing that ever happened to me, but when you came along I was so happy to have a little brother," James said his voice softening. "I miss that little guy. Who used to play space pirates with me. He's been gone for a long time."
"I do that enough as is." Harry sniffed. "But… I miss it too."
"So now, since we're done trying to kill each other, what's going on?"
"They're trying to pin this all on me." Harry sulked. "I didn't do anything wrong if anything I did everything I could to try to stop it." Harry's voice cracked a little. "No matter what I did, nothing worked and all I could do was just sit there and watch it happen." He said, starting to choke up.
"You never could handle losing control of a situation." James said quietly. "If you did everything you could to try to stop it and it didn't work then that's that. It's better than doing nothing at all." James got to his feet and walked over and offered his hand to his brother. "Beating yourself up over it doesn't accomplish anything."
Harry nodded, taking James' hand and getting up. "Are we good?" James asked.
"Yeah… I don't feel like kicking your ass anymore."
"You mean trying too?" James chuckled. "So are we good?"
Harry laughed and nodded. "Yeah, we are."
"Want to start over with… everything?"
"Good, let's get cleaned up."
"Might want to shut the pump off." Harry said gesturing to the slurry that surrounded them.
"Shit your right."
Krysta and Dian arrived later and they heard laughter over some music being played over a radio. They had walked to town to grab a few items for the home and Krysta's craft projects.
"I wonder what they are up to?"
"I don't hear screaming, so they aren't murdering each… other…" Krysta said catching a whiff of damp soil on the air and her eyes panned over to her garden that now looked like a small swamp. "My Sun Fruits!" She exclaimed. "They are drowning them! I'll kill them!" She said dropping her bags and storming up to the house leaving Diane to pick them up.
Krysta only got a bit angrier when she saw mud was tracked through and around the kitchen leading to the bathroom. She quickly followed went to the back porch and found the two of them drunk and lounging on the porch singing along rather badly to the radio. They were both wearing t-shirts and shorts and she spotted the discarded muddy clothes discarded on the porch.
"JAMES, HAROLD!" She snapped. "Just what in the actual hell have you done to my house and garden!"
James burped and sat a beer bottle down on the floor. "Oh you're home…. Well, we got the pump fixed."
"I can see that but why is my garden underwater!?"
"We had a little problem, the valve got.. Stuck open." Harry said snickering.
"Yeah that's what happened," James said in agreement.
Krystal scowled at both of them. "And I suppose the fact both of you are covered with bruises and cuts has something to do with that?!"
"Well he fell, and then I fell, and then he fell again…" Harry said lying badly. "It just happened."
Krysta wasn't buying it. "GET Both your asses up and get the mud out of my kitchen now!"
"Alright, alright you don't have to scream. Come on bud, you heard the boss." James chuckled.
"If we have too." Harry chuckled wobbling as he stood up.
Harry winced as Nora ran the dermal regenerator over the cuts and abrasions on his face. "I thought you said you weren't going to dust it up with the locals."
"I never said anything about my brother." Harry smirked.
Nora rolled her eyes and kept at her work. "You are just lucky I happened to bring one of these with me."
"I'm just glad you two worked it out." Krysta said as she went about preparing supper. "All these years of acting like jerks to each other wasn't called for."
"We worked it out." James said, shrugging. "We just had to do it our own way."
"Ha, I don't see what beating the snot out of each other accomplished if you'd just talked like adults instead of scraping like boys." Krysta huffed. "You two should be ashamed of yourselves. Then you make a mess of my house on top of it."
Nora shook her head. "Look the dermal regenerator has done all it can do at this point. You better have a damn good reason you look all puffy tomorrow when you go in."
"I'm not too worried about it." Harry replied. "Thanks."
"We're going to run to Corday and get his finger fixed." Diane said. "Honestly how do you break your own finger throwing a punch?" She said, scolding James.
"I'm out of practice." James replied. "I'm an artist, don't really get into too many fights anymore. Besides it's really starting to hurt, can we go get it taken care of?"
"I should let you suffer but I don't want to put up with your whining." Diane sighed. "Let's go get you fixed up."
James nodded and got up. "You better leave some food for me." He said jokingly to Harry.
"Crumbs got it." Harry said jokingly.
James smiled and followed Diane out of the house.
"So I take it the hearing didn't go that well today?" Nora surmised putting her dermal regenerator back into her kit.
"Nope, not at all." Harry said. "They are now claiming I was trying to cover up something. Simply because that nightmare computer wiped some of the ship's logs and they can't seem to accept the fact that it might have done it on its own."
"Tsk tsk." Nora said. "It just keeps getting better for you doesn't it?"
"Right?" Harry chuckled.
"How bad is this thing you are wrapped up in Harry?" Krysta asked peeling some root vegetables.
"It's pretty bad Krysta, like I said they are looking for someone to lynch and you are looking at him." Harry sighed. "They just need to find a damn good reason to do it."
"Sorry to hear that." Krysta said empathetically. "No wonder you got in a row with your brother you got a lot on your shoulders."
"Bah… it needed to happen." Harry said dismissively. "It's out of our systems we are good now. Krysta would you hand me some of those you don't have to do everything yourself."
Krysta sighed and slid a peeler over to Harry and a few of the vegetables and Harry grabbed a waste bin and started peeling them. "I swear you like doing things the hard way." Harry said.
"I am just being a proper host is all." Krysta said stubbornly.
"You are trying to work yourself to death. I appreciate what you are doing but you take it to far." Harry said, shaking his head as he finished peeling one of the vegetables and tossing it in a bowl.
"You aren't going to get me to change so just shush," Krysta responded.
"I can help too." Nora offered.
"I am allowing it because he's family." Krysta smiled. "You are a guest."
"Ok ok." Nora chuckled.
"However if, you don't mind wading out into my garden I could use a few sun fruits." Krysta relented. "I should make Harry do it but he apparently hasn't forgotten how to peel." She said as Harry tossed a third peeled root into the basket and grabbed a forth smiling at her.
"Not a problem." Nora said. "I will be back in a flash."
Harry chuckled as she left.
"What's so funny?" Krysta asked.
"Just you getting a Starfleet captain to wade out into the muck for you is amusing."
"Oh she is?" Krysta said. "I thought she was your girlfriend."
Harry flushed. "She's a friend, only a friend and a good one at that."
"Oh. That's a shame I like her." Krysta said. "She's nice for an offworlder. Do you have anyone you are seeing?" She asked.
"Not.. Steadily." Harry said. He really didn't want to go into this mess that was his love life. Ranging from the recent disaster with Jayna, the awkward relationship with Fara, and the giant question mark that was Doctor Aspen Cordell. "Can we not do this Aunty?"
"Well are you even trying to find a mate or is your head just stuck in the clouds?"
"I.. It's a mess.. Ok?!" Harry relented.
"Well, at least you are trying dear." Krysta smiled.
Harry groaned and shook his head grabbing the last vegetable and starting to peel it.
The next day
Stiles looked at Harry with amusement as they entered the inquiry room. "Just what the hell happened to you?" He chuckled. "You look like you got stung by something."
"I got into it with my brother. Everything's fine though." Harry smiled.
"Seriously?" Stokes said raising a brow. "You picked now of all times?"
"It… was more or less going to happen eventually," Harry said. "We are good now, I am fine"
Styles shook his head. "Thankfully they use the light from outside to light this room or your bruises would really stand out." He said as the heard the door open to the back of the room and they both stood at attention as the three admirals entered the room.
"You may be seated." Conroy stated and they did so.
"After further review of all the evidence that we could find and inspection of the flight recorders. We have found nothing substantial that proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that Commander Martinez did anything wrong. As to why and how the data in question was destroyed, if the Epsilon Three had access to all command codes and had done the damage on its own, it had the means to do so. It is not outside the realm of possibility, Dr. Sarnes creations have demonstrated remarkable abilities in past iterations. Anybody who has tried to teach a replicator to create something from scratch, or bounced an Idea off a ship's computer to solve a problem can attest to that."
Conroy paused and let that sink in. "Therefore Commander Martinez this inquiry is closed. You performed your duties to the beat of your abilities and despite the tragedy, you did manage to prevent further loss of life by your actions. There is no further need to look into this matter any further. You are free to return to duty in four days."
"Yes sir, thank you, sirs." Harry said feeling a wave of relief wash over him.
"This Inquiry is adorned." Conroy said standing and leading the other two out.
The Admirals left the room and Stikes slapped him heartily on the back. "The system works, I told you not to worry."
Harry nodded. "Let's get the hell out of here."
Harry and Stiles walked down the streets of Logopolis. Harry had taken his coat off and was carrying it over his shoulder.
"I seriously thought that was it. Poof, my whole career out the garbage shoot." Harry sighed. "You don't know how good I feel right now."
"I can imagine." Stiles smiled. "Still got to go back and deal with the mess though."
"Yeah well, perks of the privilege I suppose," Harry replied.
"Well, you have to watch out for Captain De'sol. Regardless of what happened here today it probably won't matter to her."
"I will deal with that in time." Harry sighed. "So now what?"
"We have four days, I still have a few old friends I want to visit here, plus schedule a trip home. Enjoy it and I'll contact you when I have got a fight lined up. Just, don't get into any more scraps with your brother, ok?" Stiles said smiling.
"Got it, see you in a few days."
Harry and Nora zipped across the landscape. On the western edge of Ketha province, the plains ended in the sea. It was only a ten minute trip by vehicle. Harry pulled the gyrocycle up to small parking area and they got off and followed the trail down to the beach.
"What's so special about this place?" Nora asked as they walked down to the ocean.
"Just haven't been here in a long time," Harry replied. "I ended up here when I tried to run away after my mother died. I just went the wrong way and ended up here. However, when I was sitting on the beech I saw space battle and met an orphan who was my brother's age and she convinced me to go back even though I wanted to run away." He paused. "I wonder whatever happened to her?"
"Did you come here looking for her?" Nor chuckled.
"Don't be ridiculous," Harry said. "There was some wreckage that fell down here from the battle, I just was always curious if I could find anything that washed ashore that the cleanup crews might have missed."
"Oh ok, I doubt we'll find anything," Nora said. "How long do you want to look?"
"Not long, it's more just satisfying my curiosity," Harry said shrugging.
As they walked along they noticed there was something black and shiny mixed in with the sand as well as what looked like metal.
"Looks like we might have some luck," Nora said quoting down to pick up some of the black shiny pieces. "Look sort of like plasteel or glass?" she said grabbing a small chunk. "This is probably not natural." She handed it to Harry who was digging out what looked like a piece of metal from the sand.
Harry took the small piece from Nora and looked at it, spotting something. "There's a number on this." He said looking at it. "It looks like a registry number."
"No way let me see." Nora said looking at it as well. "It sure does, either an 85 or 35 I can't tell. It even looks like the font our ships use."
"Yeah it does, that's very strange," Harry said looking at the chunk of metal he found buried in the sand. It appeared to be the corner of something, it was scorched but looked to have been chrome at one time prior to whatever happened. "This is very strange I am starting to regret coming here."
"How long ago did this happen?" Nora asked picking up another scorched piece of metal.
"Almost Twenty-five years ago." Harry said looking out into the ocean and pocketing the two pieces they had located in his pocket.
"This kibble all looks like wreckage of one of our ships. Whatever it was there isn't much left." Nora said looking up and down the shore. "Just what the hell happened here?"
"That's something I've always wondered myself," Harry said patting his pocket. "When I have the time, I'll try to figure it out."
"Seems pretty spooky Harry, you might do well enough to leave it alone." Nora cautioned.
"That's funny coming from you," Harry said.
"Yeah, it is." She smiled. "But my gut says whatever this was, it's better to let it be."
Harry shrugged and walked down the beach looking around. Nora fell in step with him soon. They didn't say much but she could tell that Harry was deep in thought
"So, are you going to be ok?"
"Yeah, eventually." He responded. "I have to go back in a few days. I am looking back to getting back to the routine. Time off like this gives my mind time to wander."
"I know the feeling," Nora said. "Looking forward to getting back to work myself. Although it's been fun, I've really enjoyed spending time with you and your family." Nora smiled.
"It's been great seeing you again." Harry smiled. "We should really try to do it more often."
"Yeah it's hard to do with a ship to look after but we should try." Nora said. "It's easy to forget everything else it's like the ship and crew just become your life. By the way thanks for loaning me the Gyrocycle while you've been away I have had a blast on it."
"No problem," Harry said. "I think I'll keep it this time and have it put on my ship, who knows maybe one day if we make planetfall on some survey mission I'll break it out again."
"I think that'll do you some good," Nora said. "You need to remember to take time for yourself once in a while."
Harry nodded. There is a little grove of trees we can sit and watch the sunset? Been a long time since we did that."
Nora smiled. "Yeah, it has."
The last few days of Harry's stay were memorable, he kept working on patching things up with his brother and spending time with Nora. When it came time to leave they all saw him off to the spaceport. Krysta got a bit teared up but that was to be expected. He was going to come back one day, probably next time for leave.
There was work to be done and it was time to get back to it.