TITLE: The Adventures of Stumpy
SYNOPSIS: Tyr and Harper join forces to deal with an unusual intruder.
WARNING: Put down and food and beverages; I was laughing when I wrote it, so God Knows how you'll react:
DISCLAIMER: I do not own DROM. Tribune does. I am making no money off this.
"Ggggrrrraaaagh!" Harper buried his face in his pillow against the incessant beeping of his alarm. "Someone turn that off," he growled. Then he remembered he was the only one sleeping in the machine shop. There was no one to turn the alarm off but him.
The it went off with a *click.*
Who had turned it off?
Harper rolled over to face his night table.
The fifty centimeter tall tan teddy bear standing on the night table raised its right arm in imitation of a salute and dropped it.
Harper rolled away and looked up at the ceiling. Then he looked back towards his night table. The bear had not obligingly disappeared, so Harper guessed it was not a hallucination.
"Thanks," Harper said. Then he rolled away from the bear.
Something thumped onto his bed and he heard the bear walking across it. Something poked him on the shoulder. Harper glanced over his shoulder and could see the bear standing next to him. It poked him again.
"Go 'way," Harper growled.
"Stop that. I'll get up when I'm ready to."
Harper rounded on it. "HEY!" He picked it up; it wasn't all that heavy. He hurled it across the room. "And they'll be worse for you if you keep bugging me." Where the bear had come from, Harper didn't care at the moment. He just wanted to grab a little more shut-eye; another Intractable Mystery™ could wait. He flopped back onto his pillow and pulled the blankets over him.
Something yanked the blankets off him.
Harper sat up and saw his blankets on the floor at the foot of the bed. Then he looked to his left and saw the bear walking out of his machine shop at a surprisingly fast pace.
"All right," Harper growled. "You want me up? I'm up. And my first order of business is to rip you into furry shreds."
Harper stomped out into *Andromeda's* corridor. He got to the intersection and looked left and right. No sign of the bear.
"Where are you?" he shouted.
"Mr. Harper?" Dylan's voice called. Dylan and Tyr came jogging down the corridor. They stopped by Harper. "Who are you talking to?"
"Have you seen a bear?" Harper asked.
"A bear?" Dylan asked.
"Yes," Harper said, "a tan teddy bear about so tall-" He indicated with his hands. "-It poked me on the shoulder and yanked the blankets off my bed. And now, I don't know where that furry little creep is."
Tyr and Dylan exchanged glances. Then Tyr hazarded, "Your teddy bear did that?"
"No, *a* teddy bear. I have no idea where it came from."
Tyr and Dylan looked at each other again.
"You don't believe me," Harper said. "Fine! I'm up anyways, so I might as well get going. But that bear is toast if I see it again." He turned and stomped into his quarters.
Dylan and Tyr resumed their run.
Dylan said, "You were saying, Tyr?"
"Actually, Dylan, I'm now thinking I should have accompanied Beka and the Magog to that Wayist retreat. The quietude has obviously addled Master Harper's brain."
"What I find disturbing, Tyr, is you used 'Harper' and 'quietude' in the same sentence."
By the time Tyr had concluded his run and had breakfast, he had filed the encounter with Harper as 'interesting but irrelevant.' He and Dylan stood a morning watch on the Command deck, then after lunch he retired to his favorite gym for more training.
Tyr shadow-boxed around the room, surprisingly light on his feet for his size, slipping and blocking imaginary punches and firing off jabs until his timer went off. Tyr lowered his hands and gradually transited from a boxer's light footwear to walking in a circle around the edge of his crash mat. He stood, shaking his arm and turning to his weight bench. And couldn't help but notice the tan teddy bear sitting on his weight bar.
It hadn't been there a few minutes ago.
"So," Tyr said, "I guess you are Master Harper's nemesis, eh?"
The bear raised its right arm in a salute and dropped it.
Tyr laughed. "Very well. You have provided me with some amusement. For that, I thank you. Now, please let me use the weight bar."
The bear shook its head from side to side.
"Excuse me?" Tyr said. "I'm prepared to forgive your intrusion on this ship for the moment. But that can change. So, please." He gestured away from the weight bench.
The bear shook its head again.
"I will not ask again."
It shook its head again.
"Very well." Tyr turned to his weapons belt and pulled out his pistol. He turned back to the bear to shoot it, but the bear had disappeared.
"Where are you?" Tyr turned in a circle, aiming at several points around he room. But no sign of the bear.
Tyr reviewed the situation. At the moment, the bear was not a serious threat, so he thought it best to allow the furry intruder to make its move.
Tyr cautiously put down his gun and lay down on the bench. His hands found the weight bar-
-and something landed on his legs. Tyr looked up. The bear was lying face down on his right leg, hanging onto it with both arms and legs.
"What the-" Tyr sat up. The bear wasn't terribly heavy, but it had clamped on. Tyr shook his leg, kicking out several times, but the bear wouldn't let go.
Tyr retrieved his force lance from his weapons belt. He deployed to his full length and worked it into the space between the bear and his leg. Suddenly, the end of the lance snapped away. The bear was no longer on his leg. Tyr smiled.
Then he noticed the bear was clinging to the end of his force lance. Tyr's smile vanished.
Tyr swung the lance and shook it, but the bear would not let go. Then his eyes found his weight bar. It had been designed specifically for Nietzschean males, so it would be more than strong enough. Tyr lined up with the weight bar, lined up the bear with the bar. He raised the lance over his head, and swung down as hard as he could …
…and didn't realize the bear was no longer on the end of the lance until it smashed into the weight bar. The shock went through his body, rattling every bone; the shock through his bone blade joints was particularly rattling.
"All right!" Tyr shouted, tossing down the lance. "Where are you?"
He heard the large doors open and he turned in time to see the little furry monstrosity waddle out. Tyr charged out and almost impaled himself on the hover board Harper was riding in the corridor.
"Hey, whoa!" Harper said as he backed up. "You ok, big guy?"
"I saw it," Tyr said, "your bear."
"Not so crazy now, is it-" Harper's hoverboard had wandered close to a ladder well. The bear dropped onto the front of the board. It bounced but Harper compensated and leveled out.
Tyr crept closer. "Hold still, Master Harper…"
Tyr leapt at the bear, but it jumped off the board at the last second. Tyr landed on the board, forcing the nose down; the rear jet overcompensated and sent Harper flipping over Tyr. He barely managed to roll, avoiding a faceplant, but the board pushed him back into Tyr's legs and they both went sprawling.
"HARPER-!" Tyr shouted.
"Cutting power!" Harper said. The board shut down, leaving them in a mess on the floor, just as Dylan, Rommie, and Trance came around the corner.
Trance's tail flicked the air. "Are you boys ok?"
Tyr said, "We have an intruder." Harper worked his feet off his board.
"Your bear?" Dylan said.
Tyr nodded. "It's real enough. I don't know what its purpose is, but I intend to capture it."
"With extreme prejudice?" Harper asked.
"If necessary," Tyr said. He turned to Dylan. "With your permission, Captain?"
"Have Trance check you guys out first."
Dylan watched Trance, Harper, and Tyr head down the corridor. When they had turned down an intersection, Dylan turned to Rommie and stared at her, stone-faced.
Rommie smiled. "Yes, captain?"
Dylan kept staring.
Rommie's smile grew strained as she pressed her finger tips together. "Dylan … you know, I'm having this odd sensation in my abdomen. Is this what Harper experiences when he's busted?"
"Maybe," Dylan said evenly, "but you were about to explain to me what's going on…"
"Harper!" Tyr hissed, motioning the young human to join him at the intersection. Harper came over to Tyr and followed the Nietzschean's gaze: The Tan Teddy Bear from H-E-Double-Toothpicks, as Harper had come to think of it, was waddling to a ladder well farther down the corridor. It jumped on the ladder and climbed down it.
Harper and Tyr exchanged glances. They crossed to the ladder well, but just as they reached for it, a gold Maria 'bot climbed up the ladder. "Excuse me, boys," it said with Andromeda's voice, and continued to climb to the next deck.
Harper and Tyr shrugged. Then the bear floated UP the ladder well, waving as it went by them.
"All right-" Harper jumped on ladder - and found himself falling upwards? He snagged some rungs and his legs swung around, upside down.
"Harper-" Tyr grabbed the ladder and he found himself flipped over, crowded next to Harper on the ladder, upside down.
"Local gravity control has been messed up," Harper said. "That thing can hack our environmental systems?"
"Thank you, Harper, I never would have guessed that without you."
"You want my help finding that thing or not?"
"My apologies. Our quarry has proven to be extremely irritating."
"You're telling me."
"I will climb…down to the next deck first."
It took some grunting and twisting, but Tyr got past Harper and climbed …. Down….to the next deck above them. He gingerly stepped onto the ceiling.
Harper came… "down" behind Tyr. "Ok. What-"
Then they spied the bear climbing on the next ladder down the hall. No, not climbing - *walking* on the ladder, its body ninety degrees to….whichever way was up for them. It spied them, made its salute, turned and walked towards…Harper had to think….the next deck up.
Harper and Tyr started down the corridor.
"Reorienting gravity," the ship's voice announced.
"Andromeda-" Harper started, but it was too late: they were slipping and sliding along the ceiling as if the ship was tumbling, and landed on the nearest wall.
They stood up, now sideways in the corridor, but apparently oriented the way the bear had been.
They got to the ladder. They were about to climb on it when another Maria crawled along the ladder from the direction the bear had gone. "Sorry again, boys," it said. "I'm working on the gravity." It went to the next deck.
"I shall go first," Tyr said. He got on the ladder and began to crawl towards the next deck up.
Harper had just got on the ladder and begun to crawl behind Tyr when the ship announced, "Restoring normal gravity."
"No-" Harper started, but it was too late: They half slid, half fell, down three more decks before finally staggering off the ladder and slumping to the floor.
The bear slid down the ladder, stopped, wave, and kept going.
"Master Harper, that bear must die!"
"Y'know what, Tyr? For the first time ever, I agree with you."
Harper's machine shop became command central as they hunted for the bear. Harper ended up pacing back and forth as Tyr scanned the audio channels from around the ship, listening for the sounds of the bear's movement.
"Wait…" Tyr said suddenly. "I think I have something."
Harper rushed to Tyr's side. "I can't hear any-"
"Shh!" Tyr listened. "Yes, I have found it!"
Harper's fingers danced on the nearest keyboard. "Sealing off hydroponics. And putting extra firewalls on all of Rommie's systems." He turned to Tyr. "We've got him cornered."
"Then let's finish this," Tyr said.
At Hydroponics, Harper opened the door manually and closed it behind them. He double-checked that all the other hatches and conduits were sealed.
"Come out!" Tyr called. "I know you're in here - there's no point in hiding."
"And don't even bother to try and hack Andromeda again," Harper called.
The bear waddled out from between two planters.
Tyr said, "You can make this easy or hard."
Two panels popped open in the bear's shoulders, and two tiny barrels popped out. Tyr and Harper found themselves cowering from a barrage of bee bees.
The bee bees stopped.
Tyr and Harper exchanged glances. Then they let out battle cries and charged.
The Battle of Hydroponics had begun.
Andromeda's screen image said, "The *Eureka Maru* is on final approach."
"Thank you, Andromeda." Dylan sat in the slipstream chair on the command deck, reading his flexie, and studiously ignored the sounds of Trance and Rommie giggling from the rear stations.
"They're coming!" Rommie hissed. "They're almost here-"
"I know," Trance said, "be serious."
The two non-human humanoid females suppressed their laughter and turned to their consoles, serious looks on their faces. The big doors opened and Tyr and Harper walked in, stone-faced. Both men were dripping wet and covered with dirt and dead plants. Tyr held a pile of metal and fur in one hand.
Trance feigned surprise first. "Harper? Tyr? What happened to you?"
"Yes," Rommie said, "I noted a disturbance in Hydroponics. Did you find the intruder?"
Harper folded his arms. "You could say that."
Tyr raised the pile of fur and machinery to his eye-level and read an exposed label: "'XMC A. I. 10-284 Training Avatar zero zero one code-named Stumpy.'" He offered it to Rommie. "Yours, I believe?"
Rommie accepted the bear from Tyr and grinned. "Stump-peeeeee!" she said in a girlish voice. "What have you been up tooooooo? You wook all done in. Did Tyr and Harper pway a widdle wough?"
"What is this," Harper said, "a cybernetic training bra?"
"You could say that," Rommie said. "It does take practice to learn how to operate peripheral bodies. But I…didn't want to give up Stumpy, so I saved him for amusing children when we had open houses. And then Trance found him in storage…." She laughed.
Trance laughed, too. "C'mon guys, you were so …." She couldn't talk.
Tyr and Harper stared at them, not laughing.
Rommie and Trance's laughter finally subsided. They pointed at each other and chorused: "It was her fault!"
"What?" Trance said. "Oh, no, no, Rommie, I didn't-"
"Trance, I distinctly remember your ordering me to-"
"No, Rommie, it was just a suggestion-"
"Clearly, my systems have been misused. We have to bring this to Dylan's attention. Isn't that right…Captain?"
"Yes…" Try said as he and Harper turned to face Dylan, "was our captain aware of what has been going on?"
"Yes," Dylan said, un-intimidated by Tyr. He got out of the chair and came up the ramp to join them. "And I am going to tell you what I told Andromeda when she apprised me: As part of educating myself in dealing with a civilian crew, I am going to stay out of how you choose to spend your downtime. As long as this ship and her company suffer no permanent damage, I don't care how you amuse yourselves. And as long as you can resolve disputes without anyone or anything being crippled of killed, I will stay out of that, too, unless I believe the safety of this ship is threatened, and in my judgment, this situation is not that serious. I leave it to you to resolve this. Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to meet the *Maru.*" He left.
Harper turned to Tyr. "No crippling or killing."
"Yes." Tyr turned to Rommie and Trance. "Will you excuse us?" Tyr and Harper huddled by the door.
"What are they saying?" Trance hissed to Rommie.
"I don't know," Rommie whispered back.
"But you should be able to hear them."
"So why can't you?"
"I don't know."
"But that should be impossible!"
"I know-" Rommie broke off as Harper and Tyr came back over to them.
And both men smiled.
"Ladies, ladies, ladies," Harper said, "we understand, this was all in fun. You didn't mean anything by it."
"Of course," Tyr said, "this was all for our benefit."
"That's right," Harper said, "and we would be remiss if we did not return the favor."
"My esteemed colleague and I have discussed this," Tyr explained, "and we have decided to share with you something from the common heritage humans and Nietzscheans share."
"We speak of an ancient and honored rite of passage," Harper went on, "passed down from generation to generation, dating back to the dawn of humanity on Mother Earth."
"Dear Ladies," Tyr purred, "do either of you know what a wedgie is?"
"So the retreat went well, Rev?" Dylan asked as he, Beka and Rev walked down the corridor from the *Maru's* hangar.
"For the most part," Rev said, "although there was a Persied brother whom I did not agree with at all. His view was that the Divine is insane, and as such, His will can not be understood. Clearly-"
Just as they got to an intersection, Trance dropped down a ladder. "They're going to kill us!" she cried as she headed down the cross corridor.
Rommie landed at the bottom of the same ladder. "You have to defend the honor of your ship, Dylan!" She took off after Trance.
Tyr's voice sounded from up the ladder: "We're gaining on them!" He dropped down the ladder, wet and covered with dirt and plants. "Victory shall be ours!" He raced after the two females.
Harper half-fell, half climbed down the ladder, also wet and dirty and breathing hard. "Yoinks …and…away," he managed as he staggered after Tyr.
A pile of metal and fur dropped down to the deck behind Harper. Beka had just realize she was looking at a mechanical teddy bear that looked liked he had lost a fight with a meat grinder when it squared off in front of Dylan and raised what was left of its right arm in a salute. Dylan returned the salute. The bear lowered its arm and waddled after the other four members of the crew.
Beka gawked at Dylan.
"What?" Dylan said. "You've been after me to lighten up."
"Yeah, but that doesn't mean you let them go nuts." Beka heaved a sigh and started after her crew. "All right, Andromeda, you can tell me all about it while we make sure Harper doesn't have a heart attack."
Dylan turned to Rev. "I'm sorry, Rev. You were saying?"
"Actually, Dylan, I was thinking that Persied might have been on to something."
"What, you mean about God being crazy? Can't imagine where you'd get that idea."