Finding A Home
Harper’s day started out worse than usual. The weather was starting
to change, and he was cold even under his blanket. His hunger was always there,
but today it was worse than usual because he hadn’t had any dinner last
night. But mostly this morning was worse than usual, because of the yelling.
Harper opened his eyes to see his Uncle Jim about five inches from his face.
Jim yelled again, “Wake up, and tell me what you did with the food!”
Harper rubbed his eyes, sat up, and looked at the empty table his uncle was pointing at. Harper stared at the table for a couple of seconds, until his uncle grabbed both of his shoulders and shook him.
“Where is the food Harper!”
Harper knew the bread and apples had been on the table when he came home last night. He hadn’t had any luck finding work or food yesterday, and he had stayed out late hoping his uncle would be asleep by the time he came home. Luck was with him last night, and everyone had been asleep before he got home. He had been tempted to eat one of the apples, but he knew better.
Harper said, “I swear it was all there when I came to bed last night Uncle Jim.”
Jim looked down at him for a couple of seconds, and backhanded him. Harper fell back on the bed holding his arms up to cover his head, expecting more blows. To Harper’s surprise, his uncle walked away. Harper looked over and saw his uncle walking past his two cousins who were watching Harper with wide eyes from the bed they shared. His uncle stopped at the front door and said, “Get your ass over here.”
Harper had a knot in the pit of his stomach as he got up, and walked to the door. His uncle pointed to the wooden bar they used to lock the door. It was leaning against the wall beside the door. Jim said, “You forgot to lock the door after you came home. I guess I should have locked you out before I fell asleep. I thought about it, but the kids convinced me it was too cold out. So, I took pity on you again, and left the door open for you. Now, we have nothing to eat this morning.”
Harper thought back to last night, and realized his uncle was right. He had been so tired, he hadn’t locked the door. “I’m so sorry.” Harper said quietly. He felt like he was going to throw up, but there was nothing in his stomach to come up.
Jim was barely able to stay calm long enough to say, “Seamus, you have lived here for about seven years now. We took you in when your parents were killed. Now you’re almost seventeen, and I think it is time for you to find your own place to live. I have to concentrate on Amy and James now that your Aunt Mary is gone. I will expect you to be gone by the time I come home. Because of you, I have to go find something for my children to eat.” With that, Jim walked out and slammed the door.
Harper stood staring at the closed door until Amy touched his arm. He turned around and found her crying. She was eight, and Harper had lived with her most of her life. He gave her a big hug and said, “Amy honey don’t cry. We’ll still see each other. I just won’t be sleeping here.”
Amy held on even tighter and said, “Only if you don’t go to the city.”
Harper didn’t know what to say to her, he knew she was right, and he knew that he would probably end up going to the city. He looked over to James for help. James came over, and gently pulled Amy away from Harper, and held her hand, so Harper could start packing.
It didn’t take Harper long to pack. He didn’t have much that he could call his own, and it all fit into a small backpack. When he was done, he gave Amy another hug and said, “Bye sweetie. See you soon.” He gave James a hug, and to his surprise James hugged him back tightly. James had recently been saying he was too old for that kind of mush, now that he was twelve. As he stepped out the door he thought, ‘What the hell am I going to do.’ He looked back at the house that he had called home for the past seven years, and said to his cousins, “Lock the door behind me.” Harper decided the only thing he could do, was head for the city.
As he walked towards the city, he thought again, ‘What am I going to
do?’ He tried to keep his mind on track, and come up with a plan, but
his thoughts kept going back to his childhood, and the things that had brought
him to this point.
His early childhood had been reasonably happy, when his parents were alive. They had been poor, and often went without food, but Harper had known he was loved. His parents were affectionate, and the three usually slept all together in one bed to keep warm in the shack they had called home. His mother’s sister, Mary, and her family lived in the same town, and they had other friends as well. Harper had kids his own age to play with, and he thought life was pretty good.
That was until the Neitscheans came to town looking for new slave labor. His parents had told Harper to hide, and when the Neitscheans came for them, his parents had fought. They had been killed while Harper was watching from under the bed. He had stayed there in shock while the Neitscheans drug his parents away. He was nine at the time.
His Aunt Mary had found him later that night, still hiding under the bed. His parents had been put in the center of town as an example, for any others who were thinking of fighting. Mary had waited until the Neitscheans had left, and the bodies had been buried, before going to look for Harper. Mary had taken him to her house to live.
Harper adjusted to his new living arrangement pretty quickly. He helped watch his younger cousins, while his Aunt and Uncle looked for food or work. He didn’t have much time to dwell on thoughts of his parents, because he had a five year old boy, and a one year old girl to look after. Once he was twelve, his uncle started to take him along when he went to look for work. Harper’s cousin James was eight then, and was able to watch his sister alone.
Harper learned a lot about the world from his uncle. Jim never tried to hide the ugly parts of the world from Harper. Jim wanted Harper to understand how things were on Earth, so he could live in it. Harper had respected his uncle for that, and tried his best to please him.
When Harper was about thirteen Jim decided to take him to the city for the
first time. They left their house early in the morning. As they walked to the
city, Jim went over all the rules and dangers of the city with Harper again,
“You don’t talk to anyone unless they ask you a direct question,
and when you answer, be quick and respectful. You never know if a human you
talk to is a slave or not, or if they will get you in trouble with the Neitscheans.
If I tell you to run, you get away as fast as you can, and hide somewhere for
a while. Then you head for home, and I’ll meet you there. Don’t
come look for me, or try to help me if there’s a fight.”
“Okay Uncle Jim.”
When they got to the city, they had found a job building a brick wall with two other men. When they were done, they had all gotten two days worth of food, and a couple of dollars. Jim had been happy with the day, and with Harper. On the walk home he had said, “Harper you did a really good job today. I’m sure your Aunt Mary can make this food last for three or four days for all five of us.”
Mary and the kids were waiting for them when they got home. Mary hugged them both, and started making dinner with the food they had received. Harper sat and told Amy and James all about the trip.
Harper thought about that day pretty often. It was one of his best memories. It was a day when everything had gone right. Most of his other memories were bad.
When Harper was fifteen, his Aunt Mary had gotten sick, and she never got better. Mary died about two weeks after she first got sick. Jim didn’t have much enthusiasm for life after that. The only thing that kept him going, was the need to take care of his children.
A couple of months after Mary died, Harper noticed a change in his uncle. Jim had always demanded obedience from Harper, as well as from his own children. Harper was used to a slap now and then when he had done something wrong, but after his aunt died, Jim found fault in most of the things Harper did, and Jim didn’t usually stop with a slap.
Harper remembered the first time his Uncle had really beaten him. It was about
four months after his Aunt had died. He had been sent to the city alone to look
for work, while Jim was looking for work in the farming area just outside the
city. Harper had been looking for work all day, but he hadn’t had any
luck. He got home and James and Amy were each having an apple. There were two
apples left, and Harper had one. His Uncle came home about an hour later empty
handed. He looked at the table with one apple on it and started in on Harper.
“Don’t tell me you didn’t get anything today Harper!”
“I went to the city, and I looked everywhere for work, even at the airport, but I couldn’t find anything.”
Jim said, “So instead of staying in the city and looking harder for work, you come home and eat the apples I got yesterday. You are useless.”
James said, “Harper only had one apple Dad, Amy and I both had one.”
“I am not talking to you son. Take your sister to the well, and bring back a bucket of water.”
“Yes sir. Come on Amy.”
Amy said, “But I’m still hungry.”
Jim said, “Go with your brother, and do as your told.”
James took Amy’s hand, took the water bucket, and walked out the door.
After the door had closed Harper said, “I’m sorry I couldn’t find any work today. I’ll go to the city again tomorrow and look for work again.”
Jim walked up to Harper and slapped him hard enough to make him fall to the floor.
Harper got up holding his face and yelled, “I told you I’m sorry. I don’t know what else you want from me. You didn’t find any work either.”
Harper couldn’t believe he just said that. He realized his mistake the second it came out of his mouth, but he couldn’t take it back now.
Jim saw red. He punched Harper in the stomach, and watched him fall to the floor again. Jim took of his belt as he yelled, “You stupid little kludge. How dare you talk back to me. If it weren’t for me and Mary you would be dead!”
Harper was still on the floor trying to breathe. He knew his uncle was right. He had no right to be anything but grateful to his uncle. He tried to get out a “Yes sir” but it came out as more of a grunt.
Jim was furious at the lack of response, and started to hit Harper with the belt. He was generally aiming for Harper’s back, but he didn’t really care where the blows landed. As he hit him, he yelled, “If it weren’t for you we would all be better off. If you can’t pull your own weight, I’ll kick you out. I better never see you eating any of the food I bring home again. You are such an ungrateful shit!”
Harper was curled up in a ball on the floor covering his head, and he was screaming with each strike of the belt.
Jim stopped after about twelve blows. He looked at Harper cowering on the floor. He put his belt back on and said, “Get up, and go to bed. I don’t want to hear from you again tonight, and you better bring home something to eat tomorrow.”
Harper crawled to his bed and climbed in. He lay awake thinking about things for a long time. Amy and James got home and saw Harper in bed. Amy asked why he was in bed so early, and Jim told them that Harper had been sent to bed for not finding any work, and that they were not to talk to him.
Harper was glad his uncle hadn’t told them what really happened. He was worried about what the kids would do, and what Jim might do to them if they tried to interfere.
He didn’t have long to worry. About three weeks later, his uncle beat him again, and this time it was in front of his cousins. James had tried to talk to his dad and calm him down. Jim had taken a second to backhand James and yell at him to take his sister and go to bed, before he continued to hit Harper. After that Harper often had bruises and welts from his uncle. Harper actually took comfort in the fact that Jim never beat James or Amy. If his uncle had tired, Harper would have fought him.
Harper was pulled out of his musing when a vehicle drove by. He knew he was
getting close to the city, and he had to start thinking about what he was going
to do. He knew what he wanted to do. He wanted to get off Earth. He wanted to
stop being at the mercy of the Neitscheans (who had none). He wanted to stop
being hungry. He wanted to work on a ship. He loved to work with anything electronic.
Most of the jobs he had found when he was living with his uncle had been fixing
electronic things for the Neitscheans when he ventured to the city. Harper also
knew he would most likely end up begging for food, while wandering the city
homeless. He knew he could end up as slave labor, or in one of the ‘rehabilitation
camps’ that the Neitschzens used to take care of ‘useless humans’.
Harper didn’t think he would survive for long in one of those camps.
Harper made it to the outskirts of the city, and decided he would try the airport first. He had had some luck there before. Even though Earth wasn’t too friendly towards outsiders, they did get the occasional alien visiting, and Harper could often talk them into giving him some kind of work before the Neitscheans found him and ‘escorted’ him out of the airport.
While Harper was wandering around the airport, he bumped into a beautiful
woman with long brown hair and blue eyes. He said, “Sorry.”
The woman kept on going, without taking any notice of him. She kept looking nervously behind her. Harper watched as she walked aboard a big ship. He thought that was surprising. Most humans weren’t allowed on any of the space ships. He stood there for a minute starring at the ship. When he turned around to look somewhere else for work, he saw a big angry Neitschean headed his way. He knew better than to run, and waited for the Neitschean to toss him out. The Neitschean grabbed him by the shirt and growled, “Have you seen a human female with brown hair walking this way?”
Harper said, “Yea, I saw a woman run that way.” and he pointed to another ship a ways off. The Nichzian shook him once and said, “Get out of the airport, if you know what’s good for you human.” The Neitschean put Harper down, and took off in the direction Harper had indicated.
He started to walk out of the airport, when he saw a muscular man carrying a large metal box towards the ship the woman was in. Harper thought the man looked a bit scary, but decided to take a chance, since he was headed towards the ship. Harper said, “Hey, do you need any help with that?”
The big man looked him up and down and said, “There are three more boxes like this one over against the far wall. If you help me get them in the ship, I’ll give you a day’s rations.”
Harper jumped at the chance, and ran to get the next box. He carried it through the open door of the ship and set it down next to the first one. The big man was setting down the third box, and Harper was carrying the fourth box towards the ship, when a group of Neitschean guards started to run towards them with their weapons drawn. Harper couldn’t really run with the heavy box, but he walked faster than he thought he could into the ship. The big man slammed the door behind Harper and yelled, “Time to take off Becka! The cargo is in, and the Neitscheans know about it.”
Harper felt the ship start to move. He couldn’t believe it. He thought, ‘It’s my lucky day. Hopefully, the guy will still give me a day’s rations, once they decide where to dump me. At least they didn’t leave me for the Neitscheans to tear apart.’
Harper watched as the big guy opened one of the boxes to inspect the cargo. When Harper saw the cargo, his stomach started to knot up. The big guy seemed satisfied, and headed for the bridge with Harper following. Harper saw that the woman named Becka, was the same woman with brown hair that he had bumped into, and she was piloting the ship. She looked over at Harper and said, “What the hell is he doing here?”
The big man said, “He helped me carry the boxes. If he hadn't helped, I wouldn’t have been able to get all four boxes on board before the Neitscheans got to us. I figured the least we could do was move him out of the Neitscheans way, since they had found the boxes missing.”
“Well you guys better hold on to something, because we’re gonna have to do some fancy flying to get the Neitscheans off our tail.” Becka said.
Harper paled, and grabbed hold of the nearest rail. Becka saw Harper and said, “Don’t worry kid, the Maru can out run them.”
True to her word Becka did lose the Neitschean ship that was following them. She laid in a course for Verda. She turned around, and saw Harper was starring in wonder at the stars. She smiled and held out her hand to him.
“Hello there. I am Captain Becka Valentine, and this is my partner Bobby Jenson. Who might you be?”
Harper said, “My name is Seamus Zalazney Harper, and this ship is amazing.”
Becka smiled and was about to say something, when the Maru shook violently and the alarms went off. Becka ran to the pilot’s chair, and tried to get them out of the way of another Neitschean ship that had just fired on them.
She turned to Bobby and said, “Well this is a surprise. Why would the Neitscheans follow us this far into space for a few stolen supplies?” Harper snorted and let out a short laugh. Becka turned to Harper and said, “What’s so funny?”
Harper looked at Bobby, who was glaring at him and said, “Um, nothing?”
Becka gritted her teeth and said, “Bobby what the hell is going on?”
Bobby held up his hands and said, “Now Becka, don’t get mad. I just thought the miners back on Verda could use some different supplies.”
Becka’s voice got very quiet, and she said, “What did you take?”
Bobby said, “Well I got some weapons.”
“Not just weapons, big bombs!” Harper said.
Becka thought for a minute, while she tried to out maneuver the Neitschean ship. Soon, another Neitschean ship came into view, and headed towards them.
She said, “It looks like they aren’t giving up. We’ll have to give the bombs back some how.”
Bobby shouted, “No way Becka! I worked hard to get those bombs, and the miners could win their freedom with them. I won’t let you give them back. You can’t give them back without the Neitscheans killing you anyway.”
Becka said, “Well, we’ll have to find a way.”
Bobby shouted, “Fuck that!” and stormed off to check his cargo again.
Harper was not enjoying himself at all now. He really didn’t want to get blown up by Neitscheans, and he didn’t want to get caught by them either. He thought for a minute, and tried to come up with a way out of the situation. Soon he had a plan. He walked over to Becka and said quietly, “We could put the bombs in an escape pod, and send it away from the Neitschean ship. They might think it’s us trying to make an escape. Then hopefully they’ll capture the pod, find their bombs, and give up pursuit.”
Becka said, “That’s a good idea, but I can’t get up to fight Bobby, while I’m trying to escape these Neitscheans, and you can believe he’s gonna fight to keep them.”
Harper had already thought about that, and he said, “If I can take him down, and get the bombs in a pod, will you drop me someplace new to live. Someplace that doesn’t have the daily threat of Neitscheans?”
Becka laughed and said, “If you can take him down, I’ll keep you on as a member of my crew for at least six months. But I can’t take him without a weapon, and no offence kid, but you’re smaller than me.” Becka thought about giving him her gun, but she decided against it.
Harper smiled and said, “Six months, it’s a deal.” He walked off to find Bobby, and saw him opening the last of the boxes. Harper snuck up on Bobby, and punched him on the side of his neck. Bobby screamed as pain shot through him. He dropped to the floor holding his neck and passed out. Harper loaded the bombs into the escape pod, and went to tell Becka she could send the pod out.
Becka just starred at Harper for a minute and then said, “How?”
Harper said, “You must have noticed the neural port on the side of his neck.”
Becka said “Yea, so.”
Harper said, “Ever touch it?”
Becka looked away and said, “Um, yea. It’s a bit sensitive.”
Harper said, “Well, I knew someone on earth who had a neural port, and it took him days to recover after a Neitschean bumped his neck.”
Becka was amazed Harper had thought of that, and she was glad too. She turned around and sent the pod away. As Harper had predicted, the Neitscheans did capture the pod, and about five minutes after that, they gave up pursuit.
Becka turned around, smiled at Harper and said, “Welcome to the Maru.”
Harper gave her a grin and said, “Thanks. I think Bobby will wake up any time now, and he is going to have a huge headache.”
Becka’s smile turned evil and she said, “Good. Come and help me.”
Together they drug Bobby to his bunk, and then they handcuffed him to it.
Harper felt a little dizzy after all that work, the adrenaline rush, and no
food. He sat on the bunk and put his head between his legs. Becka looked at
him. He looked pale and very young to her. She guessed he was about fifteen.
She had heard stories about Earth, and she knew humans had it bad there. She
said, “Hey, are ya hungry?”
Harper looked up at her and said, “Yea, a little.”
They left Bobby on his bunk, and Becka showed Harper where the mess hall was. She made them both sandwiches and some juice. Harper was finished with his, before Becka had eaten half of hers. She said, “Well I guess you were hungry. Do you want some more?”
Harper looked a bit sheepish and said quietly, “That would be great, if you have enough to spare.”
Becka said, “No one has gone hungry on the Maru yet, and I don’t intend to let you be the first. You can get used to eating all you want.”
Harper didn’t believe that statement, but let it pass. He didn’t know of anyone who had all the food they wanted except a few Neitscheans. Becka made him another sandwich, which he ate. After eating so much so fast, he felt a bit ill, but it was better than feeling hungry.
When they were done eating, Becka looked directly at Harper and said, “I guess you’re a member of my crew for six months now, so we should go over some stuff.”
Harper was overjoyed to hear those words. He said, “Yes Maam.”
Becka smiled and said, “Captain, or Becka please.”
“Mr. Harper was it?”
“Just Harper is good.”
“Okay, Harper. Because of Bobby’s betrayal, it’s just gonna be you and me for a while. I’m in the cargo business. We transport whatever people will pay us to transport. You follow my orders, and I’ll give you food, a place to stay, and a small percent of the profits. Once the six months is over, we can see if we both want to continue the arrangement. Any questions?”
Harper thought it was pretty straight forward, and still couldn’t believe his luck. He said, “I guess not. Not right now anyway.”
“Good. I have a couple questions for you. First off, what kinds of things can you do? What skills do you have?”
Harper said, “I can fix stuff when it breaks.” He realized that didn’t sound very impressive and said, “I mean, I can repair anything mechanical and / or electric, even if I don’t know what it is when I start working on it.”
Becka raised her eyebrows in surprise and said, “Well that will be useful. We’ll be testing you soon, because there’s lots of stuff on the Maru that doesn’t work.”
Harper was eager prove himself, and be useful. He said, “Great! Just show me where, and I’ll get started right now.”
Becka said, “I have one more question for you before we get started. How old are you?”
Harper had been hoping to avoid that question. He started to feel queasy thinking about going back to Earth. He thought that if she found out he really was still a kid, she wouldn’t want him around. He looked down at the table, and tried to sound casual when he said, “I’m twenty.”
Becka narrowed her eyes, and said in a quiet voice, “Try again.”
Harper’s stomach twisted. He looked at her, and said with a forced laugh, “Okay, you got me. I’m really eighteen.”
Becka stood up, put her hands on her hips, looked down at Harper, and said, “Mr. Harper, I will Not tolerate any lies from my crew. As a matter of fact, lying to me, or betraying me, are about the only things that will end our arrangement early. Now, I will ask you one more time, how old are you?”
Harper squirmed in his seat, and blushed. He thought, ‘Great, she already knew I was a kid, and now I have proved myself a liar as well.’ He said quietly, “I’m sorry Captain. I’ll be seventeen next month. I thought you might take me back if you knew my real age. You’re not gonna take me back, are you?”
Becka still looked a bit angry to Harper, but she said “No Harper, I keep my word. I said you would be a member of my crew for at least six months, and I thought you were about fifteen when I said it. Don’t lie to me again, or I’ll make sure you are very sorry.”
Harper didn’t think he could take much more of this conversation without loosing his lunch. He mumbled, “I won’t.”
Becka nodded at him and said, “Come with me, it’s time to get busy.” Harper followed her as she talked. “We have to go to another planet to get the supplies we were supposed to be getting on Earth. We don’t want to go back there any time soon. You can work on fixing this view screen, while I set a course for Tera. Tera is human friendly, and I’ve done business there before.”
Harper said, “Do you have any tools, I have a couple in my backpack, but I don’t think they’ll be enough to fix this view screen.
She said, “Oh yea, we have a bunch of tools behind that panel.”
Harper opened the panel, and couldn’t believe his eyes. With tools like these, he could have found work every day on Earth.
They both worked in companionable silence for a few hours. In that time, Harper had fixed the view screen, some guns, and a translator that Becka didn’t even know she had. Becka was duly impressed. She said, “You’re gonna be a big asset to me. I’m glad you’re working for me.”
Harper was not used to praise, and said nothing.
Soon, they both heard Bobby groaning. Becka glared that direction and said,
“Come with me.” Harper followed her to a small bedroom. She said,
“These are my quarters. You lay down and rest for a while. I have to deal
with Bobby. We’ll be landing in about half an hour. I’ll come get
you when it’s time.”
Harper didn’t want to rest, but he also didn’t want to see what Becka would say, or do, to Bobby. He figured he would just sit on the bed, and wait until she came back for him. Harper fell asleep before Becka even got to Bobby. The next thing Harper knew, he felt a hand gently pushing the hair off his forehead, and someone saying, “Time to get up.” He had a feeling of deja vu. He thought that maybe his mother used to do the same thing. He opened his eyes, and saw Becka smiling at him. She said, “Get up, and meet me on the bridge.”
They landed on Tera, and Becka told Harper the plan.
“We’ve already spent too much on this trip. Since we’ll have to replace the escape pod, we won’t be making a profit, which pisses me off. We will be looking for cheap supplies. We need to find computers, and first aid supplies. We can’t steal anything from Tera. We need to stay in good standing with this planet. You stay next to me and watch how I bargain. If you think you can help, feel free to join in.”
They got off the Maru, and Harper was stunned at the sheer amount of life forms walking around. He was even more surprised, at the wide variety of species all in one place, not fighting with each other.
There were lots of shops next to the dock for their ship, but Becka walked right by them. She explained to Harper, that things were always more expensive at an airport or docking station, then they would be in the middle of town. Soon Harper and Becka had made it to a street that had more locals then other species. Becka found a shop that looked promising, and walked in. Becka did all the bargaining and set up a delivery to the Maru. Harper was shocked at the price. Becka had spent more money in that first shop than he had ever had at any one time in his life. At the next store, Harper helped with the bargaining. Becka found that Harper was good at bargaining once she told him what she thought the price should be, but he seemed to have no idea what things should cost. Together they had gotten all the supplies they needed at a reasonable price. Two hours later, they were done loading up supplies, and they were taking off.
They set a course for Verda, where the miners were waiting for the supplies.
Harper wandered around the ship, getting to know his way around. He passed by the crew’s bunks, and noticed Bobby had a fresh split lip, and the beginning of a black eye. He was asleep, but Harper didn’t know if it was a natural sleep, or somehow induced. Harper was now absolutely sure that he needed to stay on Becka’s good side.
Becka found Harper starring at Bobby. She patted Harper on the shoulder and said, “Come on, let’s get some dinner.”
As they ate, Becka asked Harper about his childhood, and Harper told her the
basics. He finished by telling her how he had been kicked out of his house that
very morning. So much had happened to him since then, he almost couldn’t
believe it was still the same day.
Harper asked Becka, “So how did you and Bobby meet?”
Becka said, “We met in a bar about a year ago. He had a large shipment, and was looking for someone to transport it. He hired me to take the shipment. On the way we talked, and found that we had a lot in common. Then we…Well, let’s just say things got physical. We have been together ever since. But that’s over now. I plan to leave Bobby on Verda. He should be happy there, since he was more involved with the miner’s cause, than with our relationship.”
After dinner Becka showed Harper to his bunk. He was a little nervous, because he was right across from Bobby. Becka saw the nervous look and said, “Don’t worry. He’ll be out for another six hours at least. I gave him a tranquilizer.”
Harper nodded and got into bed. To Harper’s shock and embarrassment, Becka came over and tucked him in before saying “Good night.”
Harper said, “I’m almost an adult you know.”
Becka smiled and said, “I know.” as she walked off.
The next day they got to Verda right after breakfast. Harper thought Becka
was in a pretty good mood, because she let Bobby eat and use the bathroom. The
three of them got off the ship together. Bobby was groggy, and still had the
handcuffs on. Becka was holding her gun on him. They met the buyer and made
the deal. Becka also explained that Bobby wanted to stay with them and help
them fight for their freedom. Everyone was agreeable, and Becka got paid. Harper
unloaded supplies while Becka set up another supply shipment for next month.
Bobby made sure they would be getting some weapons in the next shipment. Becka
had no problem with that, as long as she was going to get paid for them.
Soon they were done with the deal and back in the air. Becka came towards Harper to give him a pat on the back. As she got close and raised her arm Harper flinched. He wasn’t sure what she was going to do, but he tried to stay calm and stand still. Becka saw the flinch and patted his back any way.
She said, “Great job today Harper. They were pleased with us, and we will be bringing back supplies once a month for them.”
Then she walked off, making a mental note to touch Harper often, so that the flinch would go away. Whether Becka was in a good mood, or a bad one, she was a physical person, so Harper would just have to get used to it.
Harper just stood there letting his adrenaline rush settle down. He felt really stupid about getting himself worked up, when all she was doing was patting him on the back. He calmed down quickly and started to get to work.
The next two weeks flew by for both of them. Harper and Becka were finding
lots of business. Becka took Harper everywhere with her, and taught him about
all the places they visited. Harper kept the ship in great shape, and helped
the income by finding ‘junk’ on various planets, which he then would
fix up and sell at their next destination.
The longer Becka knew Harper, the more she liked him. Becka couldn’t believe the things Harper could fix. He was a big help to her, and her profits had increased since taking him aboard. She also found, that he improved her general outlook on life, because he was happy most of the time. He was always chattering and joking with her. He was looking healthy, and seemed to be adjusting well to his new situation. They were both amazed at what a good schedule of eating and sleeping could do for a person.
Harper found himself comparing the Maru and Becka to his early childhood. He knew the Maru was a better home for him than his uncle’s house had been, but that wasn’t hard to do. He also thought, maybe the Maru was a better home for him than his parent’s house had been. He had loved his parents, and he remembered being happy with them, but in the Maru he had Becka to be his friend, he was warm and full all the time, and he didn’t have to worry about any Neitscheans. Harper still couldn’t believe they had all the food they wanted. The first week he had stuffed himself until he felt sick almost every day. Now he was eating a normal amount most of the time. He loved going with Becka to all the different planets, meeting new species, and learning about their cultures. He thought Becka was amazing. She was always confident, and in charge. She seemed to know how to get what she wanted from any planet they went to, and she was teaching him everything she knew.
Becka was quite pleased when she noticed, that sometime after the first week Harper stopped flinching when she got close to him. She found that she got a better response from him when she used physical reinforcement than when she used verbal reinforcement. After she gave him a hug, or patted him on the back for a job well done, he would work even harder, and he would stay concentrated on a task for longer than usual. If she just told him that he had done a good job, he would make a joke about it, and then he would get distracted from his work. Becka thought it was easy to be affectionate to Harper. He seemed very young to her sometimes, and the longer she knew him, the more she thought of him as a little brother.
Harper got used to Becka touching him pretty quickly. She hugged him after every business deal, and she patted his back every time he finished a project or gave her useful ideas. That always made him feel good, and made him feel like he belonged on the Maru. She tucked him in almost every night, and now kissed his forehead before saying good night. Harper wasn’t exactly comfortable with that, because it made him feel young, but he had come to expect it.
In the beginning of the third week, Becka noticed Harper’s clothes.
He kept them nice and clean, but he only had three shirts that she had seen,
and one pair of pants. His shoes were not in great shape, and he had no jacket
that she had seen. She decided they should go shopping. They had just completed
a delivery, and they were both on the bridge when Becka said, “Harper,
I think we should go to Tera and buy you some new clothes. Tera is open to lots
of spices, so they have a wide variety of clothes. I’m sure we can find
some clothes you will like, and clothes that will be appropriate for different
Harper said, “I don’t have any money for clothes.”
Becka said, “Well, since you’ve been with me, we’ve made quite a bit of money, and you do get a share of the profits, so yes, you do have some money.”
Becka knew that Harper had a pretty good sense of money now. They had been working on that since he arrived. They both came to learn that Earth was one of the poorest planets Becka had ever been to. She couldn’t even believe how little Harper had had growing up. As a result, everything seemed very expensive to him when Becka bought supplies. He was starting to get over that, and when he thought about it, he knew that although something seemed expensive to him, it was a fair price to her. Becka said, “You have about four hundred dollars.”
Harper said, “No way! That’s so much. That’s great! I can’t believe it’s so much.”
Becka smiled and said, “Well Harper believe it, but try to remember four hundred dollars doesn’t buy that much. It may have on Earth, but not most other places.”
“Yea, I know, but it still seems like a lot to me.”
Becka said, “Well normally I wouldn’t tell you what to do with your money, but you desperately need some new clothes. I’ll take you shopping, and if you run out of money before I think you have enough, then I’ll buy you some.”
Harper said, “You can’t expect me to spend all my money on stupid clothes.”
Becka said, “Not all of it, but most of it yes. I’ll be able to pay you again in a few weeks, so it isn’t like this is a one time thing, and unless you want to get left behind when I go to meet some of the richer clients we have, you better buy some nicer clothes.”
Harper definitely did not want to get left behind, so he reluctantly said, “Okay we’ll go buy me some clothes.”
That afternoon they landed on Tera and went in search of clothes. Before they
left the ship, Becka had given Harper four hundred dollars in cash. He just
stood there holding it for a while. Then he put a twenty in his shoe, much to
Becka’s amusement. He put the rest in various pockets in his pants and
shirt. Soon they were at the first shop, where Becka embarrassed him by asking
about underwear. He didn’t have any, and he didn’t even know what
size he would be. She made him try some on, and once he found the right size
she handed him a package that had eight pairs in it. She said, “Okay get
Harper said, “Now Becka, let’s be reasonable. I haven’t had underwear since I was a kid. I don’t really need any. The price for one is ridiculous, let alone for the set of eight.
Becka sighed and thought it would be a long day. She said, “Harper I know you don’t really understand right now, but you do need them. Just trust me on this.”
Harper pouted but said, “Okay.”
Next they got socks, and some tee shirts. Then they had another small argument about pajamas. Harper said, “What a waste of money. I could just sleep in the stupid underwear you made me buy, or in my clothes, or in nothing.”
Becka said, “Well Harper, that’s fine for on the Maru, but did it occur to you, that sometimes we might have to spend the night somewhere else? Maybe we’ll have to stay the night with someone who is well off. In that case, you’ll need pajamas.”
Harper grumbled and said, “Okay, but only one pair.”
By the end of the afternoon Harper had bought five pairs of pants, and six warm shirts. Becka had bought him a jacket, mostly because she wanted him to have a nice one, and she didn’t want to hear him complain about the prices. She also didn’t think he would have enough money for shoes if he also bought a jacket. Harper had been getting more and more unhappy watching his money go away with every purchase. Becka was getting more and more annoyed with Harper, and was starting to get snippy when he argued with her. Becka decided that taking him out to an early dinner at a restaurant would help relax them both. She said, “Hey, how about if we put all this stuff on the ship, and I’ll take you out to a nice dinner.”
Harper said, “Okay. That sounds great. I haven’t ever been to a real restaurant before. Is there anything I should know about before we go?”
Becka said, “No I don’t think so.”
Harper chattered and asked her lots of questions all the way to the Maru.
Harper and Becka did have a nice dinner together. Becka told Harper to try
a Sparky cola, and he was hooked with the first sip. He had three before they
left. Right before they left Harper went to the bathroom. While he was washing
his hands a man came up to him and said, “Hey kid, that woman your with
is really hot. Is she available?”
Harper couldn’t believe the guy would just come out and say crap like that. He said, “No.”
The man said, “You don’t expect me to believe she’s with you.”
Harper started to walk away and out the door. The man said, “Hey, I’m talking to you kid.”
Harper left the bathroom without responding, and saw Becka waiting for him by the front door. She said, “Okay, now we have one more stop before we go back to the ship. We need to get you some shoes.”
Harper said “What’s wrong with the shoes I have? I’m almost out of money.”
Becka laughed and said, “You still have a hundred dollars left. And the shoes you’re wearing have holes in the bottom. I promise it’s the last stop before we get going. That is unless you want to buy some Sparky cola to take with us on the Maru.”
Harper brightened up and said, “Really! Wow Becka, that would be great. How much would a case be? How much will shoes be? Will I be able to get both?”
Harper was so busy talking that he didn’t notice the guy who had bugged him in the bathroom, was now watching both of them with interest.
They went to a shoe store, and Becka insisted he spend fifty dollars on a pair of boots. Harper liked the boots, but he thought that was way too much money. Eventually he did get them, basically because Becka told him he had to. Once they had the boots, they headed to a grocery store, and Becka arranged a delivery of supplies for the Maru. Harper looked around the store to see what he could get with the rest of his money. He spent it all (except the twenty in his shoe) on Sparky cola and other junk food.
Buy the time they were done in the store, it was dark out. They were walking
back to the ship and talking about their day, when suddenly they found themselves
surrounded buy five guys. Harper immediately noticed the guy from the bathroom
who was directly in front of them. The street they were on was fairly disserted
and Harper felt the adrenaline rush through him. He looked at Becka, who was
smiling with an evil look on her face. The guy from the bathroom said, “So
where might the two of you be going?”
Becka said, “Back to my ship.”
The man said, “Well now, me and my boys here would like to help you get to your ship. You know, make sure you get there all right, and then once we’re there, maybe you can pay us for the help.
Harper started to say, “No way are we…”
Becka said in a quiet voice, “Be quiet Harper.”
Harper looked hurt, but said nothing else.
The man laughed and said, “That’s right Harper, you just let us adults handle this.”
Becka said, “Sure you boys can help us back to our ship. Lets go.”
The man, who had been expecting a fight, said, “Uh, Right. Lets go.”
By the time they were next to the ship, the men were getting fairly relaxed and talking among themselves. Becka looked at Harper and said, “Run!” and at the same time she pulled her gun out of her jacket, spun around and pointed it at the leader.
Harper ran towards the ship. The men just stood there and stared at Becka. Becka said, “Well now, thanks for helping us to our ship. We can make it from here. You can forget about any pay, since you obviously couldn’t have protected us from anyone.”
The leader growled and headed towards her. She shot him in the leg, and he dropped to the ground. One of the other’s caught her by surprise and kicked the gun out of her hand. The four men standing went for her. Becka kicked one in the groin, and he went down. While she did that one of the other men punched her on the side of her head. She stumbled back, and one of the men grabbed her by the arms. She struggled with him, but he didn’t let go. The two other men who were still standing were taking turns punching her in the stomach, and one of them kept feeling her up. She used the fact that one of the men was holding her to raise both her legs at the same time, and kick both of her attackers in the stomach. One fell, but the other came back at her, and kicked her leg. Then Becka heard a gun shot and saw the man who had just kicked her go down. She heard Harper say, “Unless you want to get shot too, I would suggest you let her go.”
The man holding her let go, and started to back away. Becka said to Harper, “Keep your gun on them, I have to find mine, and then we’ll get on board.”
Becka found her gun a few feet away, and picked it up. She looked at the last guy standing, and pointed her gun at him. She said, “I am going to get aboard my ship, and call the local authorities. I know they frown on this kind of behavior, and I’m a respected trader here on Tera. If I were you, I would leave before they get you.”
Then she walked up close to the guy and kicked him in the groin. He dropped to the ground moaning. She smiled and said, “Now try to walk away.”
She turned towards Harper, and smiled a real smile. She said, “Thanks for coming to my rescue. Help me get aboard.”
She put her arm around his shoulders and together they got aboard. She called the local police immediately, and watched from the ship as the police escorted four of the five men away. The fifth man had gotten away before the police had gotten there.
Becka and Harper were spending the night there, because the shipment of food was going to arrive in the morning, so Becka said, “Well that was a crappy end to the day. I need to take a couple of aspirin and go to bed.”
Harper said, “Are you hurt, do you need any help?”
Becka said, “No, they only punched me a couple of times. Nothing is broken or bleeding. I’ll feel better in the morning. You just go to bed.”
Harper said, “I’m so stupid! That guy was in the bathroom at the restaurant. He was asking me about you. I should have known something was wrong, and told you. I’m really sorry Becka.”
She went to Harper and gave him a hug. She said, “I didn’t know you could read minds.”
Harper said, “What?”
She said, “How were you supposed to know that guy had it in for us? You didn’t do anything wrong, and I really am grateful to you for coming back and helping me.”
Harper blushed and said, “I just feel bad that I ran away at first. God, I’m such a wuss. I was just scared.”
Becka held him at arms length and said, “Harper, I told you to run, because I wanted you to be safe, and I knew there were guns on board. I wouldn’t be mad at you if you hadn’t come back out to help me. However, I would have been really angry with you if you hadn’t ran when I told you to.”
Harper said, “Oh.”
Becka said, “I’ll probably sleep in tomorrow, so could you please take care of making sure all of our supplies get loaded up?”
“Sure Becka. Don’t worry about anything. You sleep as long as you want.”
Becka went to bed and thought about Harper for a little bit before falling asleep. She had been very proud of him for coming back for her, even though she knew he had been scared. Becka didn’t like the way Harper put himself down all the time. Like tonight calling himself a wuss after he had just saved her. She had noticed that he did that pretty often, but then he talked pretty often too. Becka thought that maybe it would go away, once he had been away from Earth, and with her for a while.
At the end of three weeks of it, she decided to put a stop to Harper’s
negative comments about himself. At first she tried talking to him about it
whenever she heard it. He just waved her off, and said things like, ‘It
doesn’t mean anything.’ Or worse, ‘Well it’s true ya
know.’ After three days of that, she could see that talking wasn’t
going to work. That was when she started to whack the back of his head, or his
arm, when he said things to put himself down. She found it was effective, and
also used it to get him moving when he didn’t follow her orders right
away. The first time Becka whacked the back of Harper’s head, he had just
starred up at her with big eyes while she lectured him about calling himself
‘a stupid little kludge’. When she was done Harper gave her a blank
look, like he really couldn’t understand the problem, and said in a small
voice, “Okay, sorry Becka.” After that Becka had noticed a small
decrease in the insults, so she was happy with the results, and decided they
would keep working on it.
Harper didn’t think much about Becka whacking him. The first time it happened he had been really surprised, but after that it seemed normal to him. If anything, it made him feel more at home with her. He didn’t really want to acknowledge that feeling, and tried not to think about it.
During Harper’s fifth week aboard, Becka decided to take a job that
was more risky than the others she had taken recently. She had decided to take
it, because the buyer was offering her three times more money than she usually
made for a delivery. The cargo she had to pick up was on a planet of Neitscheans
who hated humans more than most Neitscheans. They refused to let humans live,
visit, or even land on their planet. Any human found on the planet would be
tortured and killed. Becka was planning to disguise herself as a Neitschean
to buy the cargo.
Becka had already decided that she was not going to let Harper go with her on this mission. She suspected Harper wouldn’t be happy about being left behind, but she also knew how Harper felt about Neitscheans, and didn’t want him getting into trouble, or ruining the mission. She felt responsible for Harper’s well being and protection, not just because he was young, and she was the captain, but also because she liked him. He was seventeen now, and like most teenagers, he thought he was invincible. But Becka wasn’t going to put him in danger unnecessarily, and decided to brake the bad news to him that night.
After they had finished dinner, Becka said, “Harper, I need to talk
to you about the mission tomorrow.”
Harper said, “Great. How are we going to disguise ourselves as Neitscheans?”
“Well we are not going to, just I am. You will be staying on the Maru, and out of sight.”
Harper’s eyes got wide and he said, “No way! I want to help, and you might need backup.”
Becka put a hand on his hand and said, “I know you want to help, but you are small even for a human, and no one is going to believe you’re a Neitschean.”
Harper’s face got flushed, and his eyes narrowed. He yanked his hand away and said, “Not nice Becka. I know I’m small, but that could work to our advantage. I’m seventeen, but I could pass for fifteen, and with the right make up, I could pass for an even younger Neitschean.”
Becka said in a calm voice, “Harper, I know how you feel about Neitscheans, and I won’t have you jeopardizing the mission just because you don’t want to be left out. Besides it will be dangerous, and I don’t want to put you at risk. My decision stays.”
Harper started pacing and said, “Well if it’s dangerous, then I should be there to help you fight if you’re discovered.”
Becka stood up and said in a determined voice, “This is not up for a vote Harper, You will do as I say.”
Harper shouted, “Fine!” and walked off to his bunk. A few hours later when Becka came by to tuck him in, Harper pretended to be asleep.
The next morning, Becka started getting herself ready while Harper tried to badger her into letting him go with her.
“Please Becka, I grew up on a planet full of Neitscheans. I know I can help you.”
Becka said quietly, “No Harper.”
After about fifteen minutes of his pleading, Becka had had enough. She whacked him on the arm and said in a calm voice, “Mr. Harper, I have told you ‘NO’ many times now, and I am finished listening to your complaints and pleas. I have made my decision, and you will obey me. You will stay in my quarters, with the door shut, from the time we land, until we take off again. Have I made myself clear?”
Harper was fuming. He clenched his teeth and said, “Yes Captain, very clear.” And he walked off. Becka figured he was going to pout for a while, and left him alone while she finished getting ready.
Harper however was not pouting. He was trying to decide how to disguise himself as a Neitschean. He had decided to get off the ship and follow Becka. He wanted to be there if she needed help, and he didn’t want to be left behind. He also couldn’t pass up the opportunity to pull one over on some nasty Neitscheans. And no matter how much he liked Becka, he thought she was wrong about this, and he wanted to prove that he could do what ever he wanted to do. He thought he could make a disguise that was good enough to fool Becka, even if she did see him.
When Becka was finished with her disguise, and they were almost ready to land, she went to find Harper. She found him sitting on his bunk.
She gently touched his cheek and said, “Harper, I know you’re angry about being left behind, but it really is for your own good.”
Harper remained silent and wouldn’t make eye contact. Becka said, “Come on. It is time for you to be in my quarters.”
Harper got up and followed her. Becka said, “You stay put Harper. I mean it.”
Harper flopped on the bed and ignored her. Becka closed the door shaking her head. She hoped Harper wouldn’t be sulking long. It was very frustrating, and she didn’t want to make it worse by losing her temper and yelling at him. They hadn’t had a power struggle yet, because Harper had never really disagreed with one of Becka’s orders. Becka had no doubts that she was in charge, and that she could make him follow her orders, but she thought it would be unpleasant to prove it to Harper.
Harper felt the Maru land. He waited for about fifteen minutes, and then peeked out the door. The coast was clear, so he went to get his own disguise on.
Becka was pleased at how well the mission was going. No one had given her
a second look, so she was sure her disguise was working. She had found the contact,
and was currently inspecting the pretty green rocks that were going to bring
her lots of money. Then she saw a Neitschean child watching her. She looked
at him, and he looked away. She turned back to the rocks. Then she had a funny
feeling, and had to look at the child again. He was no longer watching her,
but there was something familiar about the way he was standing there. Then she
realized why the child was familiar. The child was Harper.
Harper looked back at Becka after a few seconds, and found her glaring at him. He could tell she was really pissed off. He looked away again and thought, ‘Damn. How could she have recognized me? I have a different skin color, different hair color, new clothes, and the bone spurs.’
The Neitschean, who was selling the rocks, was looking suspiciously between Becka and Harper when he said, “Is there a problem?”
Becka recovered quickly and said, “I’m sorry. These look very nice. Shall we go settle on the price?”
He smiled and said, “Right this way.”
Harper watched them walk inside and wondered if he should stay, or head back for the ship. He decided to stay. About half an hour later Becka came out with the man. They were both smiling, so Harper figured things had gone well. Harper started to head back to the Maru. Becka had bought six big boxes of the rocks, and a truck was transporting the boxes, and her, back to her ship. Harper was walking, so by the time he made it back to the ship, the cargo was already loaded, and the ship was ready to go. Becka was no where to be seen.
Harper was too nervous to go in yet. He knew Becka would be waiting for him,
and he suspected she was really mad. He also knew he was in the wrong, which
just made it worse. Becka hadn’t needed any help, so it was all for nothing.
While Harper was standing there, trying to get up the courage to go and face Becka, a Neitschean woman came by and said to Harper, “Do you need some help boy?”
Harper said, “No. I’m fine thanks.”
The woman said, “Where are your parents? A boy your age shouldn’t be here at the dock without someone watching out for you.”
Harper started to back towards the Maru and said, “It’s okay. My mom’s in this ship.”
The lady said, “Well maybe I will just make sure you get aboard safely.”
Just then Becka came out smiling and said, “Harper dear, time to go. Come on board now.”
The Neitschean woman looked at Becka and said, “Oh, I’m glad to see you. I was worried the boy was out here by himself. Never know what kind of unsavory characters could be hanging around this area.”
Becka said, “Yes, I told him to stay aboard, but he didn’t listen to me. You’re in big trouble little boy.” She crossed her arms and looked at Harper, who was now walking towards the Maru, but also trying to keep as much distance between him and Becka as possible.
He said, “Uh, sorry Mom. I’ll be getting on now.” Once he had gotten past Becka, he turned and walked quickly aboard.
The Neitschean woman smiled, and said to Becka, “They can be exasperating at that age. How old is he? About twelve I’d guess.”
Becka smiled and said, “Yes, today he was very twelve.”
The woman laughed as she walked away.
Becka got on board, and got the Maru ready to go. Harper was no where to be seen on the bridge. As soon as the Maru was up, and she had laid in a course for the buyer’s planet, she went to her quarters, and took off her disguise. She decided a quick shower would be a good idea. It would help her calm down enough to deal with Harper.
Harper was basically hiding on his bunk, hoping Becka wouldn’t come and talk to him before they took off. As soon as he felt the Maru take off, he went to the crew’s bathroom. He took off his disguise, and took a shower to get the make up off. When he was done, he got dressed and sat on the lid of a toilet seat. He really didn’t want to face Becka, and he thought that maybe he would just spend the day hiding in the bathroom.
When Becka was done with her shower, she sat on her bed, and tried to decide how to deal with Harper. She couldn’t let him get away with disobeying her direct order. If he were any other crewmember, she would either dump him at the next planet, put him in solitary confinement for a couple of days with little food, or punch him a couple of times to make sure it wouldn’t happen again. But she couldn’t do any of those things to Harper, because she had grown very fond of him, and he was still a teenager. She also didn’t think a whack or two to the back of his head was enough. She had to think of something better.
Then suddenly, she knew what would work. She thought, ‘Harper really did look twelve today, and come to think of it, he acted twelve too.’ With that thought in mind, she pulled her desk chair away from the desk, and put the back of the chair against her bed. Then she went into her bathroom, and got the small bath brush out of her shower. She tossed it on the bed next to the chair. She stood in the middle of her room for a few minutes, trying to decide if it was really the right thing to do. She thought, ‘Well I may not like it, but we do need to establish who is running the show, and it isn’t Harper.’ She went to find him. She didn’t want to make him wait too long, because she thought he might be working himself up to an anxiety attack.
Harper was still in the crew’s bathroom thinking about all the horrible
things Becka might do to him. The most terrifying of those, was taking him back
to Earth, or dumping him on some unknown planet. Then he got an image of Bobby’s
face after Becka had ‘talked’ to him. He thought, ‘Maybe she’ll
beat me up. That’s what Uncle Jim would have done. It will hurt, but I
know I can get through it. Just not back to Earth please. Then again, maybe
she’ll just lecture me.’ Harper thought about Becka’s glare
and thought, ‘No, I’m sure she will be doing more than talking.’
His thoughts were interrupted by a knock at the door. “Harper, are you in there?”
Harper said, “Would you believe no?”
“Seamus Zalazney Harper, get your butt out here right now!”
Harper thought, ‘Shit, times up.’ His palms were suddenly damp, and he wiped them on his pants as he got up. He opened the door and stepped out.
Becka was standing close to the door. She had her hands on her hips, and was looking down at Harper with an angry and disappointed look. Harper’s stomach twisted and he said in a rush, “I’m really sorry Becka. Please don’t take me back to Earth. I swear I won’t sneak off again.”
Becka smirked and said, “I won’t take you back to Earth Harper, not ever. I like you too much to do that to you. You do however need to be punished, for disobeying my direct order to stay put.”
Harper was so happy he could stay, he almost missed the last part of her statement. Becka watched as he sighed and looked relieved, and then a second later he looked up at her and paled a bit. Becka reached towards Harper, and to his credit, or maybe to her credit, Harper didn’t flinch while she grabbed his ear. She turned around and started walking towards her quarters. Harper stumbled at bit, but then kept up with her. He didn’t really know what to say, or where she was taking him. He was just glad she hadn’t punched him in the face.
His ear was starting to burn when they reached Becka’s quarters. She sat down, and pulled Harper face down across her lap before he realized what was happening. Harper was starring at the carpet and thinking ‘What the hell?’ Then he felt her shift around. She raised her right leg a bit and lowered her left leg a bit, so that Harper’s butt was the highest part of his body. Then Harper realized with growing horror, that she intended to spank him. He knew she thought of him as a kid, but this was just ridiculous. He thought, ‘This can’t be happening. It’s just impossible.’ Then he heard…Smack…and felt the first swat on his left side. He hissed with pain and surprise. He looked back to see what she had hit him with, and saw a small brush. She hit the right side with the same force. Smack.
That was when Harper found his voice. “Becka you can’t…Ow…do this. I’m…Aah… seventeen!”
Becka said, “And today…Smack…you were behaving…Smack…much younger.” Becka had never spanked anyone before, but she was giving it her best. She was alternating sides and trying to make sure none of his butt was left untouched.
Harper started squirming, so Becka put a hand on his back and continued spanking. Harper said, “Becka I’m sorry!…Aah…Really!…Oww!… I’ll never do it again…Noo!”
Becka continued spanking him as she said, “Well Harper,…Smack…I do hope you’re right,…Smack…but this is about punishment…Smack, Smack…for what you already did,…Smack…as well as making sure…Smack, Smack…that it doesn’t happen again.” Smack, Smack, Smack.
By now Harper’s legs were kicking, and he was yelping with each swat. He yelled “Becka please stop! I’m sorryyy.”
Becka said, “I think…Smack…you need…Smack… to be reminded…Smack…that I…Smack…am the one in charge.” Smack, Smack, Smack.
Becka stopped spanking him, but held him in place. She said “Okay Harper, let’s go over a couple of things. Number one, you will obey me, or we will come right back here and do this again. Do you understand me?”
Harper had stopped squirming. His butt was burning, and he couldn’t believe how humiliating this was. He said, “Y..Yes.”
Becka continued, “Number two, you will not put yourself in danger for stupid reasons.”
Harper said, “But I wanted to make sure you were okay.”
Smack, Smack, Smack.
Becka said, “Did I look like I needed your help?”
Harper said, “Aahh….N..no.”
“Did you notice, that because of you, I almost lost my cool and blew my cover?” Smack, Smack, Smack. Becka was really mad about that and the swats were harder.
“Owww…Becka! I d..din’t think you would r..recognize me.”
Becka said, “Well, I will admit that you did a good job of disguising yourself, but you were obvious to me.” Smack, Smack.
Harper said, “Yooww…Please let me up. I p..promise I’ll l..listen to you from now on.”
Becka said, “We are almost done here Harper. But first we are going to make sure you remember this for a couple of days.”
Harper thought, ‘Like I could ever forget this!’
Becka said, “I want you to think about this spanking the next time I give you an order that you don’t feel like obeying. Now, I would suggest you hold on to the chair leg. I wouldn’t want your hands to get in the way.”
Harper thought, ‘Shit, Shit, Shit’ as he grabbed the rung of the chair with both hands and held on tight.
Becka brought the bath brush down, with full force, four times in a row on the left sit spot,…Smack, Smack, Smack, Smack…and four times in a row on the right…Smack, Smack, Smack, Smack.
Harper screamed and kicked his legs.
Becka tossed the bath brush on the bed, and rubbed Harper’s back. Harper started to cry. She stood him up, and got up with him. Then she pulled him into a big hug, and continued to rub his back. Harper couldn’t figure out why he was crying, or why he couldn’t stop. He would cry sometimes after his uncle beat him, but that was from pain and anger. This spanking hadn’t really been strong enough to make him cry more than a couple of tears, and to his surprise he didn’t feel the immediate anger he used to feel after a beating. He hadn’t cried like this since his aunt Mary had died. He didn’t know why this was different, but it was. He was really upset with himself that he couldn’t stop crying. He was already mortified that Becka had spanked him, and now he was crying into her shirt. He felt about five years old.
Becka was kind of surprised Harper was crying. It made her feel guilty, but she supposed it was an appropriate response. She knew that the spanking had been needed, to prove to Harper in no uncertain terms that he had to obey her, but she didn’t enjoy doing it. She murmured to him, “Its okay Harper honey. I forgive you. You and I are going to be just fine.”
Harper’s crying got louder then.
Becka said, “I’m not going anywhere Harper. You cry all you want.”
Becka held Harper for about ten minutes, before he was able to get himself under control. He let his hands drop from her back. She turned him, and gave him a little push towards her bathroom. She said, “Go get yourself cleaned up, and meet me on the bridge when you’re ready.”
In the bathroom Harper washed his face and blew his nose a few times. He found some aspirin in the cupboard and took two. The crying had given him a headache, and his butt really hurt. He pulled his pants down to check the damage to his rear end in the mirror. It was bright red with two somewhat lighter colored raised welts. One welt on each sit spot. He was sure those would turn into bruises soon, and they would be there for quite a few days. He finished getting himself ready, and headed to the bridge.
Becka looked up when Harper entered the bridge. Harper stood there staring at the floor, unable to make eye contact. Becka walked over, and lifted Harper’s chin until their eyes met. She said, “Harper, I really didn’t want to spank you, but I do think it was the right thing to do. I hope I don’t have to do it again. Let’s go get a late lunch.”
Harper’s face was bright red and he mumbled, “Okay Becka.”
He made them some lunch, and set it on the counter so they could both eat standing up. She noticed that, even though Harper was subdued, and didn’t have much to say, he didn’t seem to be angry with her. He even seemed to want to be close to her for the rest of the day.
Harper was really embarrassed about the whole thing. But to his surprise, he still wasn’t angry about it. He kept expecting Becka to still be angry with him. His uncle would berate him for the same misdeed for days after a beating. Becka on the other hand, seemed to have genuinely forgiven him, and didn’t bring up his sneaking off at all. If anything, she was more affectionate than usual towards him.
That night Harper climbed into his bunk and lay on his side. His butt was down to a dull ache. After a while, Becka came by and tucked him in, and kissed his forehead. Then she sat on the side of his bed and smoothed the hair on the back of his head until he fell asleep.
The next day Harper woke up and smiled the way he had every morning since coming aboard the Maru. He felt warm and slightly hungry instead of cold and starved. He sat up to get off his bunk, and stood up quickly. The memory of last night came back quickly, and his face got red just thinking about it. He went to the bathroom to shower, and checked the damage. As he suspected, he had a bruise on each sit spot, but the rest of his butt was back to normal. While he took a shower, he thought about how this changed the relationship he had with Becka. He figured now Becka would treat him even more like a child. He thought, ‘I wonder if she’ll leave me behind more often. I hate being left behind while she’s working, but after last night I guess I won’t be sneaking off any more.’ Then he thought, ‘Well, unless I’m sure I won’t get caught.’ Harper realized he was not the kind of person who would just always do what he was told. He started thinking about his uncle, and getting kicked out of the house. Harper wondered how long it would be until he did something bad enough to get kicked off the Maru. Even though he hated the fact that Becka had spanked him, the thought of her taking him back to Earth, or being kicked off the ship was much worse. The more he thought about it the more he was convinced that Becka would be glad to get rid of him once the six months was over. He was in a bad mood once he was done with his shower. He got dressed, and went to the bridge.
Becka said, “Good morning Harper, how did you sleep?”
“Good. Well in about half an hour we will be meeting the buyer, so lets go have breakfast.”
During breakfast, Becka noticed that Harper still was fairly subdued. He was usually chatting away when they ate together, but today he was answering her with one or two word sentences, and was basically just staring off into space when they weren’t talking. She also noticed he was squirming a bit in his chair. Becka knew he was still thinking about yesterday, and decided to just eat and let him think.
They landed on the buyer’s planet, and Becka made contact with him. He came to meet them with a big truck to transport the green rocks. Becka told Harper to help load up the boxes into the man’s truck while Becka got paid. Soon, they were done, and back on board the Maru. Becka went up to Harper and gave him a hug and said, “Great job Harper. Thanks for helping to load up the boxes.”
Harper didn’t say anything, but he did hug her back.
By dinner time, Becka was fed up with Harper’s lack of enthusiasm for the day. She didn’t really want to bring up the spanking, because she knew he was embarrassed about it, but she also wanted him to start to act normal again.
They were eating when Becka said, “Harper what has been wrong today? You seem to be unhappy.”
Harper said, “Nothing.”
Becka said, “Harper, you know how I feel about lying, so lets try that again.”
Harper said in a loud voice, “I don’t want to talk about it.”
Becka thought about Harper and what his life had been like before coming on board with her. Then she started to wonder if he was being distant, because he was worried about her kicking him off the Maru. Becka said, “Okay Harper, but I want you to know, that I love you like a brother, and even though it has only been a month, you have a home here with me for as long as you want. No matter what trouble you get yourself into, I’ll be there for you and help you, even if you don’t like what I do to help. There is nothing you could do, that would be so bad that I would make you leave.”
Harper looked at her for a long time. He thought back to his life on Earth, and he knew he had a good home with Becka on the Maru. A couple of tears slid down his cheek, and he said, “Thanks Becka. I really do feel at home here with you, and I want to stay. I guess I have been worrying about you kicking me out. Sorry.” Then Harper got up, and for the first time he gave Becka a hug.