Field Trip

* * * *

"Are you sure Dylan said this was okay?"

Harper smiled as he smoothly pulled the Maru out from Andromeda's hanger. "Of course he did, my beautiful purple princess, would I lie to you?"

Trance sighed, and rested her chin in her palm. "He doesn't have a clue, does he?"

"Not a one," Harper admitted.

"And Beka?"

"After what happened the last time she let us off alone? Don't you remember that lecture?"

"So we're stealing the Maru!" Trance shouted accusingly. "We're--you--are going to be in so much trouble."

"Not stealing, Trance. Jeez. Cut a guy some slack. We're only borrowing it. And it's for Beka's own good--she just doesn't realize it yet."

Trance narrowed her eyes. "How is us sneaking off to a casino drift for Beka's own good?"

"Well, once I get you to the Yosiyiro tables, we'll be able to get that new ventilation system Beka's been whining about."

Trance frowned. "You're the one that keeps saying the Maru needs a new ventilation system, Beka never--"

"Semantics," he said with a wave of his hand. "The point is, I'm doing this for the good of the Maru, and therefore the good of Beka, Andromeda, and all the universe."

Trance heaved an exasperated sigh. "Someone's trying to contact us." She pointed to the light to the left of Harper, which was blinking an ominous red. "You should answer them."

"Uh, no. I, uh, really don't think I should."


"Fine! Fine. I'm getting it."

Dylan's angry visage instantly appeared on the screen in front of him, and Harper grimaced. "Hey, Boss. How can I help you?"

Beka appeared over Dylan's shoulder, shouting before the High Guard Captain got a chance to speak. "What the hell are you two doing? Get back here right now."

"Beka!" Harper protested. "We're going to get some new parts, we'll be back before you can say "Harper is a super genius," I promise."

"You're not going anywhere with MY ship!" she snapped.

"We always bring it back in one piece," Harper said smoothly.

"Too bad you can't always say the same about yourself," she shot back. "Get back here. Now."

"No can do, Boss. It's been lovely talking with you, but I've got a schedule to keep."

Harper turned his gaze away from the screen, and readjusted his grip on the handles. "Prepare for slip stream," he said, and Trance grabbed onto the railing in front of her.

He could hear Beka's distorted and angry voice shouting, "Seamus Zelazny Harper!" even as he pushed the Maru into the slip stream.

"So much trouble," Trance said again as they came out of slip stream.

Harper adjusted the controls and spared her a glance. "Don't worry about it, Trance. Once you start raking in the chips, and we have enough to give the Maru a complete refit, Beka will be bowing to the greatness that is me."

"I'm worried about you, Harper," Trance said concernedly.

He turned around in the pilot's seat, pulling agitatedly on the seatbelt. "What? Why?"

"You're delusional."

Harper rolled his eyes and turned back around, bringing the Maru closer to the Sunidey Casino Drift with a devilish grin. "Just trust in the Harper, Trance. The Harper is good."

* * * *

"I'll kill him," Beka ranted as she paced from one side of the bridge to the other. She finally came to a halt, and her eyes narrowed dangerously. "Slowly."

"Beka, calm down. He said he was just going to go pick up a few parts," Dylan said smoothly.

"Ha. And you believed him? Dylan, he was lying. He's up to something."

"He is always up to something," Tyr said dryly, leaning forward on his console to join the conversation.

Beka nodded. That was true. "But he usually lets me know about it. Andromeda, are you sure there's no kind of trail?"

Andromeda appeared on the forward screen. "I'm sorry, Beka. But I can not determine which slip stream route the Maru took. They could be anywhere."

"Andromeda," Dylan said, casting a quick nervous glance in Beka's direction. "Is the tracking device on the Maru still functional?"

Beka's eyes widened. "You put a tracking device on my ship?"

"After what happened with Tyr, I thought it was necessary," Dylan admitted. Tyr glared and defensively pulled himself up straight.


"I'm detecting a faint signal in the Rinar system."

Dylan turned to Beka. "Beka?"

With a brief glare, Beka hopped into the pilot's seat. "Seamus, when I get my hands on you, you are so dead," she muttered.

* * * *

"I am so dead," Harper whispered, trying to back up further into the wall, and farther away from the knife held at his throat.

"Shh," his attacker coed. "I told you--I go for the strong silent type, remember?"

Harper had no sooner landed the Maru, before Trance was off and running, her tail dragging behind her as she skipped into the crowds. For all her reluctance about leaving Andromeda, she had been nothing but gung-ho about gambling and enjoying all the apparent luxuries of this second rate casino drift.

Harper had been following bit slower--staring disgustedly at his surroundings and reminding himself how much money Trance was going to make for him and the necessity of spending time on the broken down drift.

Andulasia had come out of nowhere.

"What do you want?" Harper demanded.

She teasingly ran a hand through his hair, the metal in hers clinking together at the movement. "My money."

"What money? We paid you for the location of the diary--that's all you're getting."

Her eyes went dark. "You sent that dreadful Chichen after me, remember? He took everything, including your friend's furry little purse. If I hadn't been able to knock out one of his guards and make it to my ship, he'd have me too. Locked up in some death pit, I'm sure."

"Don't be such a pessimist," Harper said. "I'm sure he would have just killed you right off."

She dug the knife slightly more into his neck, forming a thin red line as it began to break the skin. "You really don't want to be talking to me like that, do you? I saw your purple companion bounce in here earlier. You'd better hope her luck hasn't run out, because if you don't get me the money you owe me, I'm going to have to get even by other means."

Harper gulped and Andulasia brought the knife down with a slow grin. "I'll be waiting on your ship for the money, and if you don't have it in one hour, I'm going to fly away with it in compensation."

Harper watched her saunter into the Maru, not missing the gun on her hip. "I finally get a beautiful woman on the Maru--and she wants to kill me."

"Who wants to kill you?"

Harper jumped, spinning around in surprise to see Trance watching him in bemusement. He sighed, and turned to the Maru. "The beautiful casino babe," he said.

Trance frowned, waiting for elaboration.

"Andulasia," he said.

Trance's gaze darkened. "The purse thief!"

Harper nodded. "She wants a half a million thrones in an hour, or she's going to hijack the Maru. But have no fear--I'm a genius, so I've got a plan."

"What?" Trance asked eagerly.

"You win a half million thrones before the hour's up and we give it to her."

Trance deflated. "That doesn't sound like a very good plan."

"You're right," he agreed. "Maybe I should just go in there and offer myself instead."

Harper started off for the Maru and Trance grabbed the back of his shirt. "That's a worse plan."

"Well--do you have any better ideas?"

Trance smiled. "Of course. We call Dylan and--"

Harper held up his hand. "Whoa! Just hold it right there. Call Dylan? CALL Dylan? Are you crazy? Do you know what they're going to do to me? No. We have to fix this first."


"Don't worry. I'm working on Plan C."

"I don't think I want to hear this," Trance said with a shiver.

"I've got it! I'm so damn smart it's scary."

"What?" Trance asked warily.

"I'll handle this, Trance. You just go play and win us lots and lots of money so we can buy some new parts and make Beka so happy she forgets all about the small matter of us, uh, well, "borrowing" her ship."

"Oh no, Harper. I'm not leaving you here with the crazy purse thief. Not unless you tell me what you're going to do."

"I'm just going to jack into the Maru's systems. We don't have any of that fancy internal defense stuff like the Andromeda, but I can still lock her out of the system."

"You have to be inside the ship to do that," Trance protested.

"I only need to get into the airlock. Then I can jack in, lock her inside the main section of the Maru, away from me, and sabotage the systems. It's a piece a cake! She can't steal the ship if she can't fly it."

"No," Trance admitted. "But she could still kill us."

"Very true, but I'm hoping to deter such drastic action with my irresistible charm and good looks."

"Don't you remember what Geretex said about her, Harper? She's dangerous."

Harper ran a hand across his throat, pulling it away with a thin coat of blood. "You don't have to tell me. But I can handle her. I'm very careful."

"You're never careful."

"Ah, you know me so well--but, for you, I'll be careful this time. Promise."

Trance narrowed her eyes. "Okay, but maybe we should just get the Maru back and head back to Andromeda. I don't think we should worry about winning anything."

"But, Trance, if we go back without parts, Beka's going to kill me!"

"Beka wouldn't hurt you, Harper. But she did threaten to throw all your Sparky cola out the air lock if you went off without telling anyone again."

"I told them," he pointed out.

"And they reacted how?"

"I see your point. But Beka wouldn't do that to my Sparky cola. She tried once on the Maru. The caffeine withdrawal wasn't pretty--I doubt she would try it again."

Trance rolled her eyes in frustration. "I'm going with you."


Trance's response was cut off as the Maru's doors slide open. Andulasia stood leaning against the wall. "If you're quite finished.?" she asked throatily, a smirk forming slowly as she pulled Harper to her. She took a small round device from the collar of his shirt and placed it in her pocket.

"A listening device," Harper mumbled. "I should have known."

"I had so been hoping to do this without any fuss," Andulasia said.

"There's no need for any fuss," Harper said, as he slid out of her reach. "Really, honest. You've got us--we'll go right on ahead and do what you want. Trance? Let's go."

Andulasia pulled out her gun and aimed it lazily in their direction. "Too late," she said. "I should just kill you and take the ship--but after walking around it, I have my doubts it's worth four hundred thrones let alone half a million."

"Hey!" Harper snapped. "I'll have you know--"

"Harper," Trance warned.

Andulasia had already turned her attention away from Harper anyway, and was focused on Trance. "You're going to go win me my money," she said simply. "And if holding the ship hostage isn't enough incentive I'll just have to keep Shorty here with me too."

"Shorty?" Harper snapped. "Who you callin--"

Andulasia smiled prettily and lifted her gun.

"Right, Shorty it is," he said under his breath.

"Okay, okay," Trance said anxiously. "I can win the money--it isn't very hard at all. But you'd better not do anything to Harper."

Andulasia smiled dangerously, and reached out to grab his arm. "Unless he wants me to, of course," she said with false sweetness.

Harper grinned rakishly at this, and Trance glared. "Harper," she whispered sharply.

"What?" he asked innocently, turning towards her.

"She's the bad guy, remember?" she asked quietly.

Andulasia rolled her eyes. "Don't be cliché, girly. Just go get my money," Andulasia snapped. "I don't need any more trouble than I've already got-- but I'll kill you if you force me into it."

"Hey, no need to talk about killing anyone," Harper said. "Trance can get your money, and you can, uh, be off on your merry way. Happily ever after for us all, right, Trance?"

Trance frowned. "Right."

"Well go," Andulasia said irritated.

With one last anxious glance at Harper, Trance started off for the tables.

"Why don't we go somewhere more comfortable, huh?" Andulasia asked quietly.

Harper gave her a half smile, and pulled his arm out of her grasp. "I'm pretty comfortable right here, actually."

Harper would never trust Geretex, but he had a feeling the Nightsider hadn't completely made it up when he warned him Andulasia wanted to get him alone to slit his throat and pick his pockets. He had the scratch on his neck to prove it.

This whole day hadn't gone quite as planned--and he was dreading returning to Andromeda, as much as he really hoped to be able to return to Andromeda. Dylan would be irritated, and ranting about his crew always running off and being absent without leave, Rommie would be angry because he took control over some of her systems to get the hanger doors open, Tyr would probably find this all very amusing, Rev would be chanting about water, and Beka was going to kill him.

Beka was very protective of her ship, and of him and Trance. She didn't like it when she didn't know where any of the above were--and she would be very displeased not knowing where all three of them were.

"So that diary." Andulasia said softly, breaking the silence. "Did you get it?"

"For about two seconds," Harper lied easily. "Before that rat bastard Geretex ran off with it." The diary was safe on Andromeda, and Geretex was probably wandering some drift with only Trance's gift flowers to his name, but Andulasia didn't need to know that.

Andulasia smiled. "You should choose your business associates more carefully."

"Believe me--I didn't choose Geretex as a partner. If it were up to me-- he'd be in a nice funeral pod about to fly into a sun," he said fervently.

"You sound bitter," Andulasia said raucously.

"Yeah, well he's cheated me out of one thing after another."

"How much longer until your friend has my money?" she asked suddenly. "I can't stay anywhere too long."

"Have a few bounty hunters after you, do you? Shocking."

Andulasia's lips curled up in a half smile. "You seem to keep forgetting I'm the one with the gun."

"You won't get anything if you hurt me--Trance wouldn't give you a cent, and trust me, if she didn't want you to have it you won't catch her."

"No, no, no," Andulasia murmured angry. "Damn it!"

Harper opened his mouth to ask 'what,' though he wasn't sure he particularly cared, but was pushed into the wall before he got the chance. Andulasia leaned down and kissed him, and Harper's eyes widened in disbelief. Andulasia pulled slightly away, and moved to whisper in his ear, "The man in the green jacket, where is he?"

"Um." Harper was a little dazed.

Andulasia grabbed his shirt and slammed him into the wall again. "Where is he?"

"He went into the Persied stand up theater," he gasped, regaining his composure. "God knows why but--"

"Now, come with me," Andulasia demanded. She grabbed his wrist and tugged him behind her.

"Trance should be here soon," Harper said, trying to pull out of her grip. "We should wait here--"

"Change of plans," she said simply. "We'll wait somewhere else."

"What? That guy a bounty hunter?"

"If he was just a bounty hunter I wouldn't have anything to worry about," she hissed. "Now shut up and follow me, or I'll just cut my losses and your throat and get the hell out of here."

"Shutting up now."

"Good boy."

Andulasia led him down another hallway and hit the release on the first airlock they reached. She pushed Harper ahead of her into her ship.

"Stay against the wall," she snapped, before pulling the gun out from her holster and moving to a small set of shelves.

Harper looked around the small, mess of a ship with a sneer. "And you had the nerve to say something about the Maru? The Maru is a paradise compared to this."

"You think I care about this piece of junk?" she asked, as she threw a few random items into a purple duffle bag. "This ship belongs to that guy out there--I was just borrowing it."

"I'll just bet."

Andulasia turned and smiled at him, he just shook his head and looked the other way. "Hey!" he shouted, moving from his designated wall to the corner. He leaned down and picked up a suspiciously furry purse. "This is Trance's! You said they took it."

"I lied," she said sardonically, before ripping it out of his hands. "Back against the wall."

"Trance loves that purse."

"Do you really think I give a damn?"

"Just give it to me," Harper snapped.

"I like it," she smirked mockingly, before pushing it into the duffle bag and snapping it closed.

"What are you doing?" Harper demanded.

"You're going to give me a ride," she said.

"Oh no--been there, done that, what was it--oh, last week. No can do. I don't think so!"

"I wasn't asking, cutie."

Harper grinned. "Cutie? Now we're getting somewhere. That's quite an improvement from Shorty. But you're still not getting a ride."

"You don't have a choice," she said, grabbing his arm again and pushing him in front of her.

Harper pulled his arm from her grip and winced. "Would you stop doing that? You're a lot stronger than you look."

Andulasia just laughed and gave him another push.

* * * *

"The Rinar system," Andromeda said dryly, from the front screen. "Nothing but casino drifts and backwater planets. What would Harper be doing here?"

"Casino drifts," Beka said wearily.

"I thought Harper did all he could to avoid drifts of any kind?" Dylan said.

Beka rolled her eyes. "He does--but he's willing to suffer through it if he can make a profit. And our Trance has hidden talents. When she plays games-- she always wins."

"I can't get a direct signal on the Maru's tracking device. It's being disrupted by all the outgoing signals from the drifts," Rommie said with a frown. "There are seven casino drifts in this system. Do you have any idea which one he would go to?"

"Check out security for all of them," Beka said. "The one with the worst security system is probably where we'll find them."

"You think they're planning to cheat?" Dylan asked, sounding resignedly appalled.

"No," she said uncertainly. "I don't think Trance cheats. But she wins so much no one believes she's legit. Casinos don't like losing money--someone gets a lucky streak and they're always willing to jump to the conclusion that they've got a cheater on their hands."

Dylan nodded. "Alright, Rommie, check it."

"The Sunidey and Montariso Drifts have the worst security," Rommie reported. "If Beka's right, they're probably at one of them. The Montariso is closest."

"Alright. We'll check that one out first. Beka--?"

Beka sat at the helm. "Montariso it is."

She sped up the ship, and headed straight for the Montariso. They still had some way to go when Andromeda flickered in front of her.

"The signal is fading. I don't think we're going in the right direction," she said.

Beka tilted her head and tapped a few of the keys on the console beside her. "Changing course for Sunidey." As she accelerated forward, Beka whispered, "You can say goodbye to your Sparky Cola, Harper. It's nothing but water and tea for you."

Andromeda flashed onto the large screen with a smile. "The signal is getting stronger. The Maru is definitely at the Sunidey Drift."

Beka grinned evilly and pushed the ship faster. "They'd better all be in one piece," she said. "And I'm definitely going to have to put a lock on the Maru's systems. It's about time you people realize it isn't the communal taxi cab."

Dylan grinned impishly. "Isn't Harper the one that does that kind of thing for you?"

"Damn, you're right. Harper could take control over Andromeda if he wanted, I've got no hope of keeping him out of the Maru."

Dylan's smile faded away. "He could?

Beka's grin only got wider. "I once got Harper to take control over an entire FTA space port so I could get back some cargo."

"You really shouldn't tell me these things," Dylan said with a sigh.

"What? We're reformed." Beka pushed down on the right handle, swinging the Andromeda around a small nebula, and sending Dylan crashing against the railing as the ship tilted dangerously. She grinned. "Mostly."

* * * *

Trance looked over her shoulder as she made her way back to the Maru. It hadn't taken long for the dealer to get suspicious about her luck, but she had managed to win the half million thrones before security could reach her. She still thought she should try not to draw undue attention to herself, however, because being purple as she was; she tended to be somewhat conspicuous.

Trance reached the Maru and frowned when she saw that Harper and Andulasia were no longer waiting where she had left them. Worried Harper might be in trouble if Andulasia had taken him into the Maru, she entered the ship, holding her winnings close to her chest. The money was in the furry purse's replacement, a small pink handbag with sequins that she didn't like nearly as much.

"Harper?" she whispered anxiously, the Maru's doors sliding slowly shut behind her. "Harper?"

She checked the ship worriedly, and found no sign of either of them. With a sigh, she turned to one of her prized plants--a Than Irineq Hani bush. "Where would they have gone?" she mumbled, before stepping closer to the plant.

She dug a small hole in the soil and placed the purse in it, covering it quickly back up. "You watch this money, Calvin," she told the plant gravely. "And I'll find Harper."

* * * *

Landis Hayes swirled his small glass, spinning the last of the Chichen Whiskey around the rim before downing it in one swig.

"I'm looking for a friend of mine," he heard someone behind him say, far too sweetly to be one of the usual patrons of the small bar.

He turned around to see a cheerful little purple girl demanding the full attention of the man beside him. "He's about this high," she said, holding her hand at her eye level. "And he's with this really mean lady that has these metal springs in her hair that really aren't very pretty at all and-- "

"Excuse me," Hayes said with a wide grin. "But I couldn't help overhearing you're looking for someone."

The man Trance had been talking to cast Hayes a relieved glance, before slipping off the bar stool and out the doors.

"I'm very good at finding things," Hayes said.

"Really?" Trance asked with a childlike smile. "I am too. I bet we could find him really easy if we worked together."

"I bet we could," he agreed. "Shall we?" He gestured to the doors, and Trance quickly fell into step beside him.

"Oh, I love your jacket! It's such a pretty shade of green," she told him brightly.

He grinned.

* * * *

Andulasia pulled Harper ruthlessly behind her as they made their way down the drift's bleak gray corridor. "Your friend should be there with my money by now--we'll take off and you can drop me off on Kadia, then we'll be even."

"I think we're way past even," Harper griped. "I think you got away with the money we paid you the first time--you probably made up that sad story about being captured by security!"

"Now, now," Andulasia said. "I didn't lie. I did lose the money."

Harper narrowed his eyes. "What? Did you gamble it all away?"

Andulasia's smug quicksilver grin was answer enough.

There was only five feet of hallway left between them and the promenade when the cheerful voice reached them-- "Maybe they're down here--"

Trance and Hayes rounded the corner. Both Andulasia and Harper were momentarily stunned upon seeing the man with Trance.

"Good job," Hayes said as he pulled a gun out from the shoulder holster beneath his jacket. "You found them."

Trance's eyes widened. "What are you--?"

"Shit!" Andulasia reached for her own gun, and pushed Harper in front of her.

Hayes had fired, and the shot grazed Harpers rib cage, ripping through a thin layer of his flesh and throwing him back into Andulasia. Harper cried out and grasped his side, barely noticing when Andulasia's blaster fell from her grip and slide past him along the metal floor.

"Harper!" Trance cried, before spinning on the gunman in anger.

Hayes barely spared her a glance, deciding she wasn't a threat and trying to get a clear shot at Andulasia.

"Hee-ha!" Trance screamed as she launched herself at him, sending them both into the wall. Hayes' head slammed into the hard metal, stunning him. Trance pulled the weapon from his grasp as he slid down the wall.

Andulasia watched her in reluctant admiration, before pulling herself out from under Harper and reaching out for her gun. Harper reached it quicker-- and with a hiss of pain he pulled the weapon up and turned it on Andulasia. "Don't move--" he warned breathlessly.

She froze resentfully, and glared at him as she carefully moved backwards to the wall. "You aren't going to shoot me, are you, cutie?"

Harper grinned tiredly, relieved at Trance's presence behind him. "I don't need anymore trouble then I already have," he mocked. "But if you give me a reason."

"Harper," Trance said concernedly, as she reached them. "Are you alright?"

"Fine, Trance," Harper said. "Just a flesh wound."

Trance sighed with relief. "Thank goodness. We have to get out of here, Harper. Security is going to show up any minute and Dylan isn't going to like having to bail us out of prison."

Harper nodded. "Just a minute," he said. He went over to where Andulasia had pressed herself and against the wall and kneeled beside her. She watched him warily.

"Harper?" Trance asked bemusedly.

Harper reached over Andulasia and grabbed her duffle bag. With a smirk, he pulled Trance's purse out from the top and tossed the duffle bag back to her. "I think this belongs to Trance," he said as he stood.

"My purse!" Trance cried. "Oh! I thought it was lost forever!" Trance pulled Harper into a quick hug before grabbing the purse and examining it for flaws.

Harper pulled back when he heard Hayes beginning to waken, and the sound of security coming their way. He grabbed Trance's arm and pulled them in the opposite direction. "Come on," he said. "We can make it back to the Maru the other way."

"We're going back to the Andromeda?" Trance asked.

"Oh yeah," Harper nodded. He pointed his gun at Andulasia as they started off. "Don't follow us," he warned. "Or I'll sic Trance on you."

Andulasia growled at him, and with a laugh he turned the corner.

* * * *

Tyr trailed Beka slowly as they made their way through the main hub of the drift. When they had reached Sunidey, they were all relieved to see the Maru docked, and in one piece. Beka had wasted no time docking the Andromeda as well, and then setting off to find her wayward crew. Tyr had volunteered to come with her--she was guessing that had more to do with him being bored than any real concern for Harper or Trance.

"This place is disgusting," Tyr said with a sneer.

Beka glanced behind her. "I've seen worse. And hey--there's a Nightsider magic act, how bad can it be?"

Tyr made a low sound in his throat in response that Beka translated as 'pretty damn bad.'

"Okay," she agreed. "It's disgusting. Let's just find the Maru, and Harper and Trance and get out of here."

"Agreed," he said instantly, deftly stepping out of the way of a stumbling drunk. "Quickly."

They found the Maru docked on the other side of the gambling arena, and Beka smiled. "Home sweet home," she whispered as she opened the doors.

"Harper!" she shouted, her manner changing from relieved to enraged before Tyr's eyes. "Trance?"

"It looks as though the Little Professor and his partner in crime are not here," Tyr said. Beka threw him a scorching glance and he added with mild amusement, "How fortunate for them."

Her glare darkened and she placed her hands on her hips. "Look--why don't you just take the Maru and dock it back on the Andromeda. I'll wait here for Harper and Trance."

Tyr laughed. "Let me guess--you want no witnesses."

Beka turned and headed back for the doors. "Something like that," she said.

* * * *

Harper threw another cautious glance behind them, but there were still no security thugs trying to run them down. He turned to Trance with a grin. "I think we're going to get away with this."

Trance returned his grin with a bright smile of her own, and hugged her purse a little tighter. "I'm glad it's worked out--and I even got back my purse."

They finally reached the Maru's port and Harper came to a dead stop. "Ah.Trance? Where's the Maru.?"

"Lose something, did you?"

Trance and Harper swung quickly around. Beka was leaning against the wall behind them, her arms crossed tightly.

"Beka!" Harper yelped.

"I had Tyr take it back to the Andromeda for me. Wouldn't want someone else taking off without the proper authorization."

"Beka, come on, you know I--"

"First things first. Why are you bleeding? Are you seriously hurt? Or are you healthy enough that I can KILL you?!"

"Actually now that you mention it," Harper said, grabbing his side. "I was shot--"

Beka felt the anger drain and stepped towards him hurriedly, stalling only at the sound of Trance's voice.

Trance frowned. "You said you were just grazed."

Beka narrowed her eyes and moved to check it out herself. She pulled his hand away and poked at it.

"Hey!" Harper snapped. "That hurts."

"It's fine," she agreed. "You getting shot at in the first place, however-- not fine."

"It wasn't my fault," he said instantly.

"It really wasn't," Trance nodded. "I didn't know the nice man in the green jacket would try to kill them."

"What man?" Beka asked.

Trance shrugged. "I don't know who he was--but he had been really nice and was going to help me find Harper."

"Why did you need to find Harper?" Beka demanded.

"Trance--" Harper broke in pleadingly.

"Because he went off with the mean purse thief."

Beka brought a hand to her head. "I think I'll regret this, but--purse thief?"

"Andulasia," Trance explained. "The one that we paid for the location of Hasturi's diary."

"What was she doing here?"

"Gambling, I think," Trance answered pleasantly.

Harper sighed.

"Alright," Beka said. "I can see this is going to be a LONG story. You can tell me on the Andromeda. Come on, now--let's go."

Beka ushered Trance and Harper in front of her, and allowed herself a small smile when she was sure neither of them could see. She had to say this for them--they never let things get boring.

* * * *

Trance finished placing the bandage on Harper's side and then stood back to smile at her handy work. "There," she said. "All better."

Harper hopped off the examination table. "Thanks, Trance."

Beka had sent him here the moment they had returned to the ship, putting off a lecture only because she was worried about infection. He was to go to the command deck as soon as he was checked out--to face Beka and Dylan.

Trance didn't have to go. All Trance had to do was smile and be her cute little self and she was sent off with a pat on the head, and 'tsk tsking' about how Harper was corrupting her.

"I guess I'll be going then," Harper said with a sigh. "It would have been better if we'd had the chance to win some money or buy some parts."

Trance grinned mischievously and walked over to the plant on the counter. She had taken longer to get here than him, walking in five minutes later with the plant held proudly in her arms. He had wondered about that--but given up questioning Trance on her behavior towards her plants months ago.

"What?" he asked warily.

"This is for you," she said, putting it in his arms. "His name is Calvin, and at the moment, he's worth half a million thrones."

"What?" Harper gaped.

"I won the money, Harper--and buried it in Calvin's pot for safe keeping."

His eyes widened. "You won it! Trance, you are a goddess!"

Trance smiled immodestly. "I know."

Harper leaned over and kissed her on her cheek. "And far too good to me."

Trance's smile went crooked. "I know that too."

Harper grinned down at the plant, seeing the corners of the sequined purse peaking out of the dirt. "This might just get me out of trouble--we'll be able to give the Maru a complete refit. Beka's been wanting to for years."

Trance laughed. "Good. You'd better go then--you don't want to keep them waiting."

Harper nodded with a sigh, and one last grin for Trance--then started off for the command deck. He stopped a few feet from the doors, trying to brace himself to go in. Holo-Rommie flickered in front of him, her head tilted back and her arms crossed. "You're going to get it," she said with an evil little grin he wanted to wipe right out of her programming.

Harper winked at her. "Maybe not, Rom-Doll." Then he stepped inside.

Dylan and Beka whirled around when he entered, both looking less than pleased.

"Did you get that cut cleaned and looked at?" Beka demanded.

"Yes, mom," Harper said cheekily.

Beka's glare darkened.

"Harper," Dylan said, sounding half-amused and half-exasperated. "What were you doing? You and Trance could have gotten in serious trouble, and we didn't even know where you were. It was careless and reckless, not to mention insubordinate and--"

"Stupid," Beka chipped in.

"Right," Dylan nodded, before turning to Harper expectantly--his eyes wandering to the plant for only a brief moment of confusion before settling on the younger man's face. "Well--? What do you have to say for yourself?"

Harper took a deep breath and held out the plant. "Uh, Dylan, Beka--meet Calvin."

The End

Author's Notes: I'm new to the Andromeda fandom, but love it so much I've already created a site: the link can be found on the homepage listed on my profile (click the harperfic banner at the bottom). If you have a gen Harper based fic and would like to submit it, just check out the submission page--I'd love to have your fic!