Title: Egg Whisk

By" X

X0832001@yahoo.com

Rated: PG (maybe 13)

Disclaimer:  I own nothing and am getting no money (I know, you're shocked)

They'd found him.  It was an absolute miracle.  They'd finally located Harper.  The last 3 months of waiting desperately for news, exhaustive searches and meetings with the lowest of low lives was finally over.  The Salvation Corporation had contacted Andromeda.  Dylan had never received a better letter.  Beka had kissed him and nearly knocked him to the floor with her jubilant embrace.  The corporation had liberated a war camp on Lobas and Harper had been among the refugees.

The Salvation Corporation was fairly well known.  They claimed to be a non-profit organization, helping those in need reclaim their old life, or start a new one if necessary.  Of course the well known fact was generous donations were expected to reclaim your loved one.  It was a dirty scam. Playing on emotions and manipulating the desperate individuals involved. 

But Dylan and the rest of the crew couldn't care less about that fact right now.  They were just so glad to know Harper was alive, and safe.  It was a 3 day journey to the Salvation corporation colony Harper was staying at.  He'd been gone for 3 months but those last 3 days grated Beka's nerves rawer than ever.  Harper had disappeared during one of many diplomatic meetings.  It had hurt that they didn't even notice when he went missing.  The meetings covered a 4 day period and no one noticed how long it had been since they'd last seen Harper.  Once they found Harper hadn't retuned to the ship in days Beka felt so guilty about assuming Harper was just off hiding from the diplomats.  She'd cried herself to sleep that night; and many other nights in the time Harper was missing without a trace. 

They didn't know where he was, what had happened to him, if he was still on the planet, if he was even still alive.  It had made for a very hard time aboard Andromeda.  The Commonwealth had wanted to assign a new engineer to Andromeda, her being the fleet's best ship, but Dylan refused every applicant, one after another 112 in all. Dylan sure Harper would be back to reclaim his job soon.  He's always liked Harper.  Well, he didn't instantly like Harper.  When he first laid eyes on the young man the boy was trying to take over his ship, that's bound to prove a bit of a sore spot.  But Harper was a brilliant engineer, a member of his crew, and his friend.  It was hard for Dylan to wander around his ship, pass the empty machine shop and wonder where Harper was and what was happening to him.  Now that he knew the worry was less, but the outrage even hotter.

Beka drummed her fingers restlessly as she watched the main screen.  Harper was her responsibility.  She was supposed to look out for him and had failed miserably.  She knew something very bad had happened with Harper even before Andromeda got the words out.  Just looking at her face made the bottom fall out of her gut, head gray and heavy and her knees weak.  When Andromeda announced Harper was gone, likely kidnapped, Beka felt like someone had pulled the floor out from under her.  Harper had been a (reasonably) stable fixture in her life for years, and now he was gone.  As they drew ever closer to him she finally forced herself to really consider what had happened to him since she last saw him.  The Corporation explained they had acquired Harper and several other refugees after the signing of a cease fire ending the Elmar-Billis conflict.  He'd been a prisoner of the Elmar in a kind of military camp.  They'd been using him, and a few other people of genius level intellect to plan their attacks.  Harper had been made a tool; a weapon.

As she sat, listlessly continuing her drumming she considered what state they would find their friend in.  She wished he'd be the same old Harper; she was fully prepared for him to be the cagey, paranoid guy he was early on in his Maru days.  She also knew they may have really broken him and she would find the same scared, scarred, kid with the night terrors that he was even earlier than that.  Or he could be worse off than she had ever known him to be.  She prayed that wasn't the case.

"We have arrived at Salvation Cooperation outpost 45."Andromeda announced ship wide.  What followed was a mad rush to the Maru.  Dylan went directly to the little ship and found Beka, Tyr and Trance already there.  Beka was in the pilot's seat, the other two nearby.

"Took you long enough" Beka sighed

"It took me 2 minutes to get here!" he exasperated

"A long 2 minutes"

"So we're all going?"

"Yes" Trance explained simply

"Even Tyr?"

"You may require assistance."

"I doubt we will"

"You can't be sure."

"I'm pretty sure we just go, pick him and bring him back here.  We really don't need you"

"You might"

"You missed him." The captain teased.

"Shut up Dylan"

"Fine, but you and Trance are staying on the Maru"

"Fine"

Beka, Dylan and the corporation's representative, Louisa sat down at a table in a small private room off of the lobby. A binder sat in the middle of the table and Louisa drew it towards her as she opened it.  "Now, you are here for Mr. Harper correct?"

"Yes, he's our ship's engineer" Dylan supplied, hoping to get the small talk over with so she would take them to Harper.  Beka was silent and twitched a little nervously.  She didn't know what to expect.  She couldn't talk, she just needed to know.  Louisa stopped flipping pages but kept her hand over the paper clipped collection of photos.

"Now, you know he's not quite the same as when the Elmarins took him."

"He's a member of my crew!  Regardless of what they've done to him, we want him back."

"Of course you do, it's just I want to show you what we know before you go and claim him.  Maybe this isn't Harper.  There is no reason to feel any shame if it turns out this man isn't your Harper.  We have a lovely program for those no one claims.  He'll be well taken care of."  Dylan couldn't believe this woman, imagine just leaving their friend here, claiming they didn't know him just because he'd been through something bad.

He looked at Beka, her eyes were squeezed shut and her voice was a little horse as she said, "Just show us Harper and we can take him home." Louisa pushed the book towards the captains. 

The photos under her hand had been taken when they first brought Harper onto their rescue ship.  Dylan looked, and passed to Beka without comment.  They were gruesome.  A living skeleton, he looked like death warmed over.  There were shots of his chest, ribs clearly mis-set and looking as if the skin directly overlaid the bone.  The back of his shoulders was a solid bruise, ranging from a medium purple to black, few were the old green-yellow.  They were fresh bruises on top of bruises.  There were pictures of other abused portions of his anatomy but the saddest was his face.  It was defiantly Harper, but his head had been shaved down to blond fuzz, his face was a rainbow of bruises and a gash above his eye was clearly infected with something pyogenic.  Even though it was just a picture, Dylan had never seen such pain and terror in someone's eyes before.  He glanced at the accompanying text.  Below the description they had already sent as a part of their announcement of locating their wayward engineer were his comments and those his fellow inmates had made during their own interviews.

 "The only time we got unchained was when they took you to get knocked around, you know, had to do that to keep us in our place.  The rooms they kept you in were about 1 meter across, 3 meters down,  Little rectangles they couldn't even beat you properly in."

"Well, this guy Harper got a lot of the beatings.  Every night they beat him until he collapsed.  It wasn't just that he was disobedient, they broke his spirit eventually.  Then were making an example out of him.  They wanted us to know we may be smart, but they were the ones in charge."

"Yeah, I got knocked around a lot.  I don't think there was anyone who didn't.  Whellis' marker ran out of ink and she got her knee so smashed up I doubt she'd ever have walked right.  Course she never got a chance to try…killed her and all…No, I don't wanna talk about me…"

"We just worked.  We were plotting their war for them.  Uhm, I planned troop movements.  The Persisd, Chirion, he planned raids.  Montgomery did bombs.  Lourna she planned assassination of generals.  Was real good at it too. There was a human, little fellow named Harper, he planned most of the surprise attacks; some of the new weapons too.  Whellis did the rest of the new weapons, the chemical ones.  Reynolds, he did vehicles, made all sorts of cars.  But, Harper, Lourna, and I were the only ones that made it out.  As soon as the treaty was signed they started the elimination.  All the reds and greens."

"Walls, floor, everywhere was this smooth white surface.  No paper, no computers, we got a maker and the room."  There were included some pictures of Harper's room.  Blue marker equations and schematics covered the walls ¾ of the way up, as far as the guy could reach.  They were on the floor too, clear in the corner, smeared away near the door where they had been walked on.  Hunt had never considered Harper a genius; despite what Harper himself said.  But looking at the sea of numbers, the lines, abstract circles, he was overwhelmed.  There was a lot more going on in that head than they gave him credit for.  The whole scene was a rather stoic, creepy environment.  It just fed the ach Dylan felt in his chest.

Dylan closed his eyes and sighed.  Why Harper?  It was just so unfair.  The Elmarins weren't even being punished for this.  Both Elmar and Billis were non-Commonwealth worlds and therefore not subject to its laws.  There would be no repercussions and that made Dylan even madder.  They'd killed those they didn't want anymore and practically destroyed the rest, but they didn't have to be moral.  War was hell, live with it.  They'd even won their stupid little war.  All Dylan could do was try and pick up the pieces.  "Yeah, that's Harper.  We'd like to see him now."