The characters Becka, Harper, and Trance are from the TV show ‘Gene Roddenberry’s Andromeda’, and they don’t belong to me. I am making no money from the stories I write. All the other characters in this story do belong to me. The events in this story take place before the events in the TV show. Please be aware that the stories contain discipline, and I hope you enjoy it.

The Neural Port

The Maru shook violently as the alarms blared. Becka’s voice came over the intercom, “Harper! Tell me the slipstream is fixed!”
Harper yelled back, “I’m working as fast as I can!”
Becka piloted the Maru around a large meteor to try and block the not so friendly fire from the Clarissa. Becka muttered, “I’ll never agree to take on a project with people I don’t know again.”
Harper was putting the slipstream back together, and talking to himself. He said, “Damn slip stream. Stupid Clarissa. What a bunch of creeps. It’s not good enough to share fifty-fifty, even though we found the deserted ship first. No, now they want all the good stuff for themselves. Sabotaging my poor Maru’s slipstream so we can’t get away. It’s okay baby, I’ll fix you up. Don’t worry about a thing. With Harper on the job, you’ll be running in no time. Of course if I had a neural port, you might have been up and running half an hour ago right after they started firing on us. Does Becka listen to me when I tell her how useful a neural port would be? No, it’s always “Maybe when we’re not so busy” or “Can’t you see I’m working” or my personal favorite “We need to check it out more and make sure it’s safe enough for you. Becka shouldn’t have agreed to share the loot anyway. I mean did she really think the crew of the Clarissa could be trusted? We should have just blown them out of space. I sure…”
Becka’s voice interrupted him with, “Is it fixed yet?!”
“Two more minutes boss.”
“Less talking and more working Mr. Harper.”
Harper said in an annoyed voice, “Unlike some people, I can work and talk at the same time.”
Becka smiled and didn’t succeed in sounding serious when she said, “Do I need to come whack you?”
The Maru shook again as the Clarissa came around the meteor they’d been hiding behind.
Harper put on the last piece of the slipstream, and turned it on. Harper said, “As a matter of fact, I think you should stay where you are, and go to slipstream, ‘cause it’s fixed.”
Becka went to slipstream, and got away from the Clarissa easily.

By the end of the day they had sold the salvaged parts from the vacant ship, and they were playing a game of cards in the mess hall when Harper decided to bring up his neural port again. This time, he decided to try a less direct approach. Harper said, “Hey Becka, we don’t have any jobs lined up for the next two weeks, right?”
Becka said, “Yeah that’s right, but we need to look for work.”
Harper said, “Could we look for work at Newmars? You haven’t been there before, and there might be business for us there.”
“Newmars is a well established planet. I’m sure they have lots of cargo vessels begging to transport stuff for them every day.”
Harper said, “Maybe, but there’s a large population, so there should be room for one more.”
Becka said, “Okay Harper, I know you want to go there to look into getting a neural port, and we can go check it out, but that’s not a guarantee that I’ll let you get one.”
“That’s great Becka! I’m sure it’ll be safe. They do hundreds every year. And while I’m recovering, you can go look for work. I really do believe we’ll be able to find work there.”
Becka said, “Don’t get your hopes up too high, because if I don’t think it’s safe you’re not going to be getting the surgery, and I don’t want you throwing a tantrum about it.”
Harper’s face flushed a bit and he said, “Jeez Becka, I don’t throw tantrums.”
Becka laughed and said, “Okay Harper, my mistake. What I meant to say was, I don’t want you to be so disappointed that you say lots of unpleasant things to me in a loud voice.”
Harper had nothing nice to say to that, and for once he kept his mouth shut.
Becka said, “And if I tell you that you can’t get one, you’d better stop telling me every day how much better each job I give you would be if you had a neural port. I’m already tired of it.”
Harper wanted to say lots of things about that, but since Becka had agreed to go to Newmars, all he said was, “Okay.”

Becka disliked Newmars before they even landed. As they approached the planet, the Maru was hailed. A male voice said, “Welcome to Newmars. Please state your business, your ship’s id number, the number of crew members, and the captain’s license number.”
Becka rolled her eyes and thought; ‘Where the hell did I put my fake id?’
Becka said, “We’re here to look for work, and to get information about neural port surgeries. The ship is a cargo class number 593. The crew is two members, and I’ll have to go find my license to get the number.”
The voice said, “Please do that now before you land.”
Becka went to find her id. As she was headed to her room, Harper came out of the little room he liked to call his workshop. Becka thought it looked like piles of junk with a table and tools in the middle, but since Harper always got stuff fixed when she asked, she didn’t say anything about it. Harper said, “Hey boss, I heard the hail, do you have a license?”
Becka said, “Well I have a fake one. I never got a real one, because my father and uncle built this ship away from the main systems. Then when I got old enough, he helped me get a fake one. He thought it was safer not to let the main systems have your real information.”
Harper said, “What about me? Will I need some kind of paperwork to prove who I am?”
Becka said, “I hadn’t thought about it, but yes you will. I’ll show you what mine looks like, and you can try to make one for yourself before we land. Your home planet can be Louties. For most people I would say use your real first name, and change your last name on the fake id, but since you usually use your last name as your first, I would say keep that and add a different last name.”
Soon they both had identification that was good enough to pass normal inspection. As soon as they landed, a woman met them at their ship and said, “Welcome to Newmars. Please follow me, and we can get your paperwork ready for your stay.”
After a half an hour of filling out forms and having someone look through their ship, Becka was almost fed up enough to just leave. Harper looked at Becka and could see she was tense all over. He said, “Thanks so much for coming here for me Becka. Now that we’re done with paperwork, can we go to the medical center, and try to get an appointment?”
Becka sighed and said, “Okay Harper.”
After two hours at the medical center filling out various forms and getting sent to different departments they finally were able to make an appointment to see a doctor the next morning.
On the way back to the airport Harper said, “Well that was fun.”
Becka said, “So much fun, I think I need to stop at a bar and have a few drinks.”
Harper let out a short laugh and said, “Sounds good to me, where should we go?”
“I was kidding and you know it.”
“Come on Becka, it could be fun spending the day drinking.”
“Yeah, that would be really smart what with you having a doctor’s appointment tomorrow. And let’s not even mention that the drinking age on Newmars is 25.”
“Okay, okay, so what should we do now?”
“Originally when we decided to come here, I was going to be looking for people who wanted to hire us to transport cargo, but now that I’ve been here for a day I know I don’t want to come back any time soon.”
“Sorry.”
“It’s okay Harper. I know this means a lot to you, so I’m willing to put up with the bull for a week or two. But if you don’t get the surgery, I want to leave tomorrow.”
Harper nodded his head and said, “Yeah. I didn’t know any of the planets still had this much order to them. It kind of freaks me out. Even being overrun by Neitschians seems less horrible.”
“So, I guess if you do get the surgery, and I’m here for a week or two, I’ll look for work that I can do here and that I can finish in a day or two. Like maybe helping to repair ships or something. And I guess if I can’t find work, I’ll spend my time with you at the medical center. I think for now we should just go back to the Maru and relax for the rest of the day. I am so tired of red tape, I want to shoot something.”
“Sounds good to me boss. The relaxing part not the shooting part that is. Well, come to think of it, that doesn’t sound too bad either.”

In the morning they went to meet the doctor. Becka and Harper were shown to the doctor’s office. Soon a man came in and said, “Hello, I’m Dr. Jacob, my assistant Trance will be with us shortly.”
Harper said, “Hi, I’m Harper Smith, and this is my friend Becka. Nice to meet you.”
Dr. Jacob said, “Please have a seat and tell me how I can help you.”
Everyone sat down, and Harper said, “I want to get a neural port. Becka here wants all the details on the surgery. If the details all meet with her approval, I’ll want to schedule an appointment to have the surgery as soon as possible.”
Dr. Jacob said, “All right, but before we get started, I need to know how old you are. I didn’t pay attention to your age when I was going over your information. But you look younger than I expected, and we won’t put a neural port in a human under the age of sixteen.”
Harper frowned. He knew he looked young, but sometimes it was frustrating. He said, “I’m seventeen.”
The doctor said, “Good. Okay, I’ll go over some basic information. First off, the surgery takes about four hours. Then the recovery time in the hospital is a minimum of five days, but we suggest seven days. You should feel like yourself again around the third day. We need to keep you under observation for five days, because your body can reject some of the circuitry, and it can start to deteriorate without you feeling it. Then if you try to use the port, it can do some serious damage to your brain. We’ve never had a case of the body rejecting the wiring after the five days is up, but we just feel it is safer with seven days. Any questions so far?”
“No”
“Okay. During the recovery time, if your body starts to reject the wiring we’ll do an immediate surgery to take that neural port out. At this point you would have two options. We could try one more time with a new neural port, or we could just patch you up, and send you on your way. Now for some statistics so you have an understanding of what the likelihood of all this is. I have been in this hospital for seventeen years. In that time we have done thousands of these surgeries. I have known of eight patients whose bodies rejected the wiring. Only one of them was human. Of those eight, five had a new neural port put in, and of those five, only two of them had their bodies reject the wiring a second time. The human was one of the patients who had a second one put in, and the second one worked for him. We have had three patients die while in surgery, and none of them were human. All in all, it’s a fairly safe procedure that has been perfected over time. Any questions now?”
Becka said, “In your seventeen years here, about how many humans have had the surgery? I mean, you say thousands of surgeries have been performed and only one human has had problems, but one out of how many?”
Dr. Jacob said, “Oh I would say about five hundred or so, but we have had over a thousand Neitschieans, and their brains are almost exactly alike.”
Becka didn’t comment she just nodded her head.
Harper said, “How much does the whole procedure cost for humans?”
Dr. Jacob said, “It will come out to about three thousand dollars when everything is done and paid for.”
Becka said, “Is there much pain with the surgery?”
Dr. Jacob said, “Harper will have a headache for the first two days, and his neck will be swollen and sore. We’ll be medicating him during this time, or he would have a debilitating migraine. He might have a slight headache for a day or two after that, but most people don’t. Then the only time he should have pain, is when the neural port gets bumped, or used improperly.”
There was a knock at the door, and Dr. Jacob walked to the door as he said, “That must be Trance.” He opened the door and let her in.
When Harper saw Trance the first word that came to his mind was beautiful. He had no idea what species she was. Her skin had a slight lavender color to it. Her short hair was blond and managed to be both spiky and puffy at the same time. Her ears came to a point on the top. She had big eyes, full lips, and she was smiling in a way that made her whole face look radiant. She had a human female form, with the addition of a long tail.
Dr. Jacob said, “This is my assistant Trance. Trance, this is Mr. Harper Smith, and his friend Becka.”
Trance said, “Hello, I’m glad you’re here.”
Becka was surprised to see a species she didn’t recognize, and was very curious about her. She said, “Hi.”
Trance looked at Harper who was staring at her. The silence lasted for a couple of seconds until Becka nudged Harper. He tore his eyes away from Trance to look at Becka. Becka was looking at him expectantly and he realized what the problem was. He looked back at Trance and stammered. “N…nice to meet you.”
Trance’s smile got even more radiant as she said, “It’s good to meet you Harper.” She turned to Dr. Jacob and said, “Where were you?”
Dr. Jacob and Trance sat down as he told her “I gave them the basics of the surgery, and answered some questions, but I haven’t talked about the training yet.”
Trance nodded and said, “Usually about the third day of recovery time, we start training sessions. We generally have two sessions a day, and they last for about an hour to an hour and a half each. You will learn how to use the neural port safely, and how to keep from hurting yourself. If you decide to do the surgery, I’ll be overseeing your training program.”
Harper couldn’t believe his luck and just nodded his head.
Becka said, “How in depth are the training sessions? I mean, Harper is the engineer for my ship, and sometimes he has to fix things quickly under pressure, so do the training sessions just go over some basics, or do they go over real life problems and solutions?
Trance said, “There are various simulations that we do to get people ready for problems that they will encounter in real life. All the simulations are in a controlled environment on a computer system that can be disconnected from the rest of the network in case of trouble.”
Dr. Jacob said, “Any more questions?”
Becka shook her head no.
Harper said, “That’s all the questions I have. We’ve been looking into this for a while now, and I’ve read all about the surgery and the risks. I guess Becka and I need to talk alone for a few minutes before I decide. If I do decide to get it done, when could I get it done?”
Dr. Jacob said, “Well if you decided to do it, then we could take some blood samples, and some brain scans today. We should have all the results from those by tomorrow morning, and then we could do the surgery that afternoon. The surgery has to be done within twenty four hours of the brain scan.”
Trance said, “We should give you some time to talk. If you’ll follow me, I’ll show you to another room where you can be alone. When you’ve made a decision, just open the door, and someone will be with you shortly.”
Becka and Harper got up and followed Trance to another room. He couldn’t stop staring at her tail while they followed her. It looked to him like a cat’s tail with no fur. He liked the way it swayed while she walked.
They got in the room and sat down. As Trance was closing the door she said, “I’m sure you will make the right decision.”
Harper turned to Becka and said, “Do you know what species she was?”
“No. I’ve never seen anyone like her.”
“Me either. She is….beautiful.”
“Yes she is. So Harper, what do you think about it?”
Harper looked Becka in the eyes and said, “I really want to do this. I’m aware of all the risks, and I am willing to take them. It will make me useful for the rest of my life, no mater how old or feeble I get. What do you think?”
Becka said, “I don’t like the idea of it as much as you do, but I think we’ve looked at all the information, and I think it’s safe enough. If you still want to do it in the morning, you can.”
Harper, who was sitting next to Becka on a couch, reached out and hugged Becka. He said, “Thanks Becka.”
Harper went and opened the door. Trance was standing in the hall a few doors down, and smiled at him. She said, “Well that was the quickest decision we have ever had, and I know it was the right one.”
Over the next couple of hours they did all the preliminary work on Harper, and got things set up for the surgery.

The next day they got up and puttered around the Maru until it was time to go to the hospital. On the way, Becka said, “Are you sure about this Harper? You know you can still back out if you’ve changed your mind.”
Harper said, “I’m sure. I’ve thought about it for a long time now, and I know it’s what I want.”
At the hospital Becka stayed with Harper while they got him ready for surgery. Trance came in and put an IV in to start to put him to sleep. Once Harper was out, a couple of orderlies came to take Harper to the surgery room. Trance showed Becka to the waiting room and said, “Don’t worry Becka, Harper is going to be fine.”

After four long hours Trance came back and said, “It’s over, and it went very well. If you want to come with me, you can see Harper, but he won’t be awake for a few hours yet. Becka followed Trance, and went to see Harper. He was lying in bed with a big bandage on his neck. Becka thought he looked very pale and young. To her surprise, Trance sat down next to her and said, “So, what’s your story?”
Becka said, “I’m sorry, I don’t understand what you’re asking.”
“How did you both get to this point?”
Becka was all for honesty, but she didn’t like to share personal stuff with people she just met. It could be dangerous. She said, “I own a cargo ship, and Harper is my engineer.”
Trance was silent for a while, like she expected more, and then said, “That’s it?”
“Yes.”
Trance looked disappointed for a second. Then she smiled and said, “I’ve been working in this hospital for about four years now. It’s really nice to be able to help people. The society I grew up in valued helping others above most other things, so I decided to try working in a hospital. I enjoy it for the most part.”
Trance paused for a minute like she expected Becka to comment. Then she sighed and said, “For the rest of the day, and tomorrow, Harper is going to be in considerable pain even though we’re giving him pain medication. We’ll be letting him rest during this time. It’ll help his recovery if he eats, but most patients feel sick, and don’t eat much. Then the day after tomorrow we’ll start with some training. The reason I asked about you and Harper, is because he’ll be needing support, and we’re all pretty busy here, so if you are able to, it would be good if you could visit him pretty often in the next two days.”
Becka said, “I was planning to be here quite often until he’s released.”
Trance smiled and said, “So he’s really more like your friend than your engineer.”
Becka smiled a fake smile and said, “Why is this important to you?”
Trance said, “We find that the patients who have friends and family with them have a much better recovery time than the patients who are here alone.”
Becka smiled a more genuine smile, and said, “Harper won’t be alone.”
Trance got up and said, “Great. I have to go check on some other people now, but please push the nurse button when he wakes up, or if you have any problems”
Harper woke up about two hours later. Becka was sitting in the chair next to him reading a book. She smiled at him as he groaned. She pushed the nurse button, and said quietly, “How are you feeling Harper honey?”
Harper felt like his head was going to explode, and he said with a raspy voice, “Awful.”
A nurse came in to check Harper’s vitals, and put a new IV up.

For two days Harper lay in bed and tried to ignore the pain. Becka spent most of her time with Harper reading to him, or just sitting with him. On the third day the pain lessened, and the training sessions started. Harper knew he had made the right decision the first time he jacked in. It was the most exciting thing he had ever done. He even thought it was better than surfing. Harper had always been interested in electronics and how things worked even when he was very little. Seeing the computer from the inside gave him a new perspective, and he knew once he saw the Maru from the inside he would have a greater understanding of how the ships parts and functions all worked together.
During the three days following that, Harper had a training session every morning and every night. Trance and the other hospital staff were quite surprised at how quickly Harper learned to use his neural port, and they were amazed when he beat all the previous records for completing the simulations. Because he could finish them so quickly, he was able to go through more simulations than any other patient they had ever had.
Becka had tried looking for work as soon as Harper was well enough to start his training sessions, but after one day of that, she decided it was hopeless and spent most of her time in the Hospital. Becka and Trance sat in on all of Harper’s training sessions, and Becka slowly warmed up to Trance.

After the training session on the sixth day, Harper’s trainer for that day said, “You’ve done every simulation that we have. I can’t believe how fast you are.”
Trance said, “I think you’re ready to try this in the real world Harper. It isn’t normal, but I’ve gotten clearance from the hospital to try something different with you because of your test scores on the simulations. Maybe you’ll even help us out. One of our ambulance ships isn’t working like it should. It’s systems will seem pretty simple compared to a starship, so you should be able to find your way around it pretty fast. Hopefully you can get it working at full capacity again.”
Harper said, “Lets do it now. I’m ready for more.”
Trance said, “No Harper. It’s important when the neural port is new, to only use it for two or three hours a day. Probably for at least the first month you should keep it under three hours a day. Also every seventh day or so, you should take a break, and not use it at all. After the first month it’s okay to slowly increase the time you spend in the computer, but you should never do more than five hours a day, and you should always take at least one day off every seven days.”
Harper thought to himself ‘That sucks, and of course Trance would have to say this in front of Becka.’ He pouted a bit and said, “Okay.”
Becka saw the pout and thought ‘Well, this is going to be a struggle.’
That night Harper had a great time jacked into the hospital’s ship. He was able make it run much better after just half an hour. It made him very anxious to explore the Maru.

On the seventh day, Becka arrived in the morning after Harper had eaten breakfast, and soon Trance joined them. Trance explained that today they would be doing the full work up on Harper again. They would be checking his blood and doing scans and tests. Harper groaned and said, “Yuck.”
Trance said, “It has to be done, or you can’t leave.”
Harper said, “Okay, when do I get to do my training sessions today?”
Trance said, “You don’t get a session today. Remember what I said about resting every seventh day?”
“Yeah, but it hasn’t been seven days yet.”
“Yes, but we always make people rest on the last day they stay with us. Mostly because all the testing you’ll have today is stressful, but also because the hospital found out long ago that patients don’t usually follow our advice about resting. We used to let people jack in every day they were here if things were going well, but many people didn’t rest after being released from the hospital. Then after a few weeks of jacking in every day, they would be back here with complaints of headaches and pain.”
Harper didn’t react well to this news. He crossed his arms and clenched his jaw. He frowned and said; “Well that’s just great! Now I get a nice relaxing day full of annoying tests with nothing good to look forward to. Perfect.”
Becka crossed her arms too, and looked at him with a mildly unhappy look of her own and said, “Maybe you should be looking forward to getting out of here tomorrow if all your tests come back alright.”
Harper stared at the bed and said, “Whatever.”
Trance thought it was getting a bit uncomfortable in the room, and said, “I’ll go start setting up the tests. Someone will be back for you in about half an hour.”
Becka said, “Thanks, Trance.”
Once Trance left Becka sat down on the bed next to Harper, and pulled him into a hug. She said, “Harper honey, I know today sounds unpleasant, but just try to get through it, and then you have six days of getting to check out the Maru’s computer from the inside before you need to take another break.”
Harper felt a little better and said, “Okay Becka.”

Once Harper was taken for his first test Trance and Becka were alone in Harper’s room. Trance said, “You and Harper have a cargo ship right?”
“That’s right.”
“Well, I was hoping you could do a job for me.”
Becka was surprised, but said, “Sure does the hospital need some supplies?”
Trance said, “No. I have an odd job for you. I want you to transport someone instead of something.”
Becka had transported people before, and she didn’t think it was too bad. They were more trouble than cargo, but usually paid better too. She said, “Let me meet the person, and then we can talk about price if I decide to transport them.”
Trance said; “Well you’ve already met the person. It’s me.”
Becka’s eyes got wide with surprise, and she said, “You?”
Trance said in a rush, “I would really like to try something new. I’ve been thinking about leaving Newmars for a while now, and I’ve enjoyed spending time with you and Harper. I would pay you of course.”
Becka thought for a minute and said, “Where do you want to go?”
“I don’t know.”
Becka laughed and said, “Well then how can I transport you?”
Trance said, “I was hoping I could just ride along with you for a while until I decide where I want to go next. I think I told you that my people value helping others above most other things right?”
“Yes.”
Trance said, “Well I think I’ve done all that I can working here. I’ve gained many skills here that will enable me to offer my aid to others, but all the people who come here are well off, and have plenty of other ways to get help if we didn’t help them. I want to help people who really need me. I haven’t been to any of the outer planets, but I’m sure there are people in need of medical attention, or in need of some other kinds of assistance, and riding with you would be a good way for me to find those people.”
“I’m gonna need to think about it for a while. As I’m sure you’ve noticed, Harper and I are pretty much like family, and while we would have no problem transporting someone for a couple of days, having someone around for a longer period of time would be a big change. I’ll talk to Harper and let you know our decision by tomorrow morning before Harper checks out.”

By the time dinner was being served, Harper’s testing was done, and he was truly glad it was over. Becka was in his room waiting to visit and talk to him about Trance. Harper perked up even more when he saw Becka. He said, “Hey, how was your day? Mine sucked.”
Becka said, “My day was very interesting, and I have some stuff to talk to you about.”
“Okay what’s up?”
Becka told Harper about Trance and her request to go with them for a while. Harper was surprised at first, but by the time Becka was done telling him about it he was nodding his head yes.
Harper said, “I think that sounds great. I like Trance. She’s been really nice to me, and it would be helpful to have a medical type person aboard if one of us gets sick or injured. What do you think?”
Becka said, “Yeah, I agree. It may only be for a little while. There are plenty of places she could be very useful because of her medical knowledge, and she’ll be paying us to stay aboard. And come to think of it I like her too.”
Becka smiled and teased, “You just want her to come with us because you think she has a cute tail.”
Harper said, “Um…well…yeah.”
They both smiled and Becka was about to leave when Trance came in somewhat abruptly and said, “I heard from several people that you were grumpy today. Is your head hurting? All your tests came back normal, but if you don’t feel good, we may need to do some more testing.”
He thought ‘this is not good’ and said, “No I feel fine.”
Trance looked at him and said with concern in her voice, “Are you sure you’re feeling okay. At least five people said that you were mean or abrupt with them today, and they all thought something was wrong with you, since you’ve been so nice to everyone the whole time you’ve been here. You really need to be honest if anything is hurting.”
Harper blushed and said; “Nothing hurts.”
Harper thought about his day. He had been unhappy, and he had been extremely unpleasant to the people around him. He hadn’t really thought about the possibility that the hospital staff would tell Trance that there might be something wrong with him. He thought they might complain amongst themselves, and maybe even tell Trance he had been unpleasant, but he hadn’t counted on them being worried about him.
Becka was looking pretty mad now. Harper looked at her and his stomach started to twist a bit. He swallowed hard, and heard Becka say, “Trance, can you give us a minute alone please. I’ll come open the door when we’re done.”
Trance said, “Sure.” as she walked out.
Becka looked at Harper who was looking down at his lap with a bright red face. She said, “Care to explain yourself?”
Harper said in a soft voice, “I was really mad about not being able to jack in today, and I hated the testing.”
“Were you being honest when you said nothing hurt?”
Harper nodded his head yes.
Becka shook her head and said, “So, you were taking out your anger on everyone around you, and making sure everyone was miserable with you. Is that correct?”
He looked up and said, “I didn’t think they would be worried about me.”
Becka said, “Do you think it’s alright to be mean to people who are trying to help you just because you don’t know them very well?”
Harper hung his head and shook it no.
Becka sighed and picked up the note pad and pencil that were beside the bed. She wrote something and said, “Well Harper, there are a few hours before you need to go to sleep, so I want you to go find each of the people you were mean to and apologize to them. Don’t you shake your head at me mister. If you don’t know who someone was, then Trance can help you find the person. Then after that you will write this for me fifty times before you go to bed tonight.”
Harper looked at the paper Becka handed him. It said, ‘I will not be mean to people just because I am in a bad mood.”
He said, “This isn’t fair. I hate tests.”
Becka said, “If you don’t do it, then you and I will have a little ‘talk’ about your behavior when we get back to the Maru. I don’t like to hear from other people that you were being obnoxious and acting like a ten-year-old. Have I made myself clear?”
“I wasn’t acting like a kid.”
“Have I made myself clear Mr. Harper?”
Harper crossed his arms, and said, “Yes!”
“You better check your attitude and behave yourself for the rest of the evening.”
Harper pouted, and said, “Fine.”
Becka went to the door to let Trance back in. Trance walked up to Harper and said, “Are you sure you feel okay?”
Harper was still pouting and said a bit loudly, “I said I was fine.”
Becka cleared her throat and gave Harper a look that clearly meant ‘Try again!’
Harper still had his arms crossed and looked down while he said, “I’m sorry I was mean to everyone today. I just was really unhappy about the tests, and I took it out on everyone. I really do feel fine.”
Trance smiled and said, “That’s okay Harper. I know the testing can get tiring. I’m glad to know you’re okay. I’ll let everyone know you’re fine, and tell them not to worry.”
Harper smiled and started to say ‘That would be great.’ Then he looked at Becka and he could tell she was serious about him apologizing. He said, “Actually Trance, I feel bad about today, and I would really like it if you could take me around to everyone so I could apologize in person.”
Trance looked surprised and said, “That’s really sweet of you Harper, but you don't have to.”
Becka rolled her eyes while Trance was looking at Harper. Becka could tell that Trance would be no help keeping Harper in line if she came with them. Becka interrupted, “I think it would be good for Harper to apologize in person. He feels really bad about it, and it will make him feel better.”
While Trance was looking at Becka, Harper rolled his eyes back at her. He could tell that if Trance came with them, Becka would be just as bossy as ever, but Trance would be a push over.
Trance smiled and said, “Well okay then.”
Becka walked over and kissed Harper on the forehead before saying, “I’m going home for the night. Try to get some rest, and I’ll be back tomorrow morning to pick you up and take you home.”
Trance and Harper both said “Night Becka.”
Trance showed Harper to all the people that had worked with him that day, and he was truly embarrassed at the amount of affection and understanding they all gave him. They all forgave him easily, and told him they understood how horrible all the testing could be. Harper felt much worse by the time he got back to his room. He realized after the first couple of apologies that the people he had been mean to were really very nice, and he had made them feel bad for no good reason. He hated it when Becka was right. He picked up the note pad beside the bed, and started to write lines. By the time he was done he felt a little better, but he was still upset that Becka had made him do it.
He sat and thought about how much his day had sucked. He thought, ‘I had to do the horrible testing all day, and then Becka got mad and embarrassed me by making me apologize to everyone. Then on top of everything else, I had to write lines. What’s that about anyway? What a huge waste of my time! This has been an abysmal day, and I didn’t even get to jack in. Rest every seven days my ass. We’ll just see about that.’ The more Harper thought about it the more angry he got. He was really tired of everyone telling him what to do. He thought ‘I’m a responsible adult even if Becka can’t see it. I was taking care of myself for a long time before she came along, and I don’t need her looking after me now. I know what my body can handle. I’ll jack in any time I want to. She just doesn’t need to know about it. In fact I could jack in right now.’
Harper knew the training room wasn’t used at night, and the more he thought about it, the more he wanted to go play in the computer. He figured he had ‘rested’ all day, and he conveniently overlooked the fact that all the testing had been stressful, and that he was feeling tired.
He decided to go jack in for just a little while. He knew the night was slow in his area of the hospital, and no one would come to check on him for about two hours. He found it was pretty easy to sneak out and get to the training room. He sat down and jacked in.
Harper was having a good time. He had been in for about half an hour when someone he didn’t know came in the room. The woman said, “You’re Harper right?”
Harper nodded and thought, ‘This is not good.’
The woman said, “You need to get out of the computer now. People are looking for you.”
Harper knew that couldn’t be good at all. As he pulled the connector out of his neck Trance and a large male orderly came into the room. For a couple of seconds they all just stood there looking at Harper while he looked around for an escape like a trapped animal. Harper noticed that the orderly was one of the people he had apologized to a while ago. Harper gulped. Trance and the orderly looked really angry, and he knew he couldn’t say anything to defend what he had done. He eventually looked down, and waited for someone else to say something. Trance said, “Kyle will you please escort Mr. Smith back to his room, and see that he stays there.”
Harper felt a massive hand on his arm pulling him towards the door. He said quietly, “I can walk myself.”
Trance said, “I’m sure you can, but I guess we can’t trust you to go back to your room without a babysitter.”
Harper decided he needed to re-evaluate his opinion of Trance. Maybe she wouldn’t be as easygoing as he thought she would be. He went with Kyle without further comment.
Kyle took Harper to his room and sat him on his bed. Kyle said, “I’ll be right outside the door if you need anything.” He made it sound like a threat.
Harper’s main thoughts for the next half an hour were about how to keep Becka from finding out what he had done. He knew what she would think of his little trip, and he had a pretty good idea of what she would do about it too.
While Harper was thinking, Trance came in. He expected her to be angry, but she just looked like she was disappointed in him, and Harper felt pretty bad about that. She always seemed happy to him, and this night was the first time he had seen her without a smile. She said, “Harper what in the universe would make you decide it was a good idea to jack in tonight?”
Harper said in a low quiet voice, “I thought it would be fun.”
Trance said, “Well this doesn’t bode well for you. If you’re the type of person who can’t handle self-discipline, then you’ll be back here within the month. You’ll have over used the neural port, and we’ll end up having to remove it to keep you safe. I really thought you were more sensible than that.”
Harper nodded his head and said, “I usually am. I’m really sorry. It won’t happen again. Please don’t tell Becka. It’ll just upset her.”
Trance thought about it for a minute, and said, “I accept your apology, but I think you should tell Becka what happened. Becka seems very responsible, and she can help you keep track of how long you spend jacked in, and remind you when you need to relax.”
“Yeah I know, but she’ll be mad.”
“I’ve seen the two of you together enough to know that even if she is mad when you tell her, she’ll forgive you. Your behavior has made me see that I need to worry about your judgement, so if you don’t tell her, I’m going to.”
Harper thought ‘Sure she’ll forgive me. Right after she punishes me she’ll forgive me. Forget that! Tomorrow I’ll tell Trance that I told Becka, and then Becka doesn’t have to hear about it.’ He said, “Alright. I’ll tell her.”
Trance said, “Okay, I’m glad that’s settled. Now we’ll be putting this electronic bracelet on you for the night. We really can’t afford to have the orderly standing outside the door all night, so this bracelet will let us know if you leave your room.”
Harper looked at the bracelet, and realized it was made for children who had to stay in the hospital. He said, “No! I mean, we don’t need to do that. I swear I’ll stay in my room the rest of the night! Really.”
Trance looked at him for a couple of seconds and then said, “I’m sorry Harper, but it’s hospital policy.”
Harper reluctantly let her put the bracelet on. When he was alone, he looked closely at the bracelet. He knew he could remove it without setting off the alarm, but he left it on. He figured Becka would take a dim view of his tampering with hospital equipment, especially if she found out why it was put on. He had trouble falling asleep. He kept imagining Becka’s reaction to his adventure, and it wasn’t good.

The next morning Becka was there early. She found Trance and said, “Good morning. Did Harper do all of his apologizing last night?”
Trance smiled and said, “Yes he did, and everyone was very pleased about it. I think he made quite a few people happy. We’re used to rude patients, so when one is really nice, it’s a pleasant surprise.”
Becka smiled and said, “Great. I wanted you to know that I’ve decided to let you travel with us, until you find the place you want to stay. Do you want to go talk about money, and a contract?”
Trance gave a huge smile and said, “That sounds really great Becka. Thanks.”
By the time the two women had come to an agreement, Harper was ready to be released.
Becka went to Harper’s room, and gave him a big hug. She said, “Are you ready to get out of here?”
Harper said, “You bet boss.”
“Did you apologize to everyone and write your lines?”
Harper handed Becka the paper for her to check and said, “Yes.”
Becka looked over the paper and then threw it away. She smiled and said, “Good. I just signed the contract with Trance. She’ll be going with us. After she finishes her day here at the hospital, she’ll go home and pack. Then she’ll be joining us aboard the Maru tomorrow morning.”
Harper smiled a bit and said, “Great.”
His thoughts were jumbled. He couldn’t decide if he should be happy, angry, scared, or relieved. He thought, ‘It’ll be good to have Trance aboard, because I really like her, but I’m sure one of the first things she’ll do is bring up last nights activities. Maybe she won’t mention it. But if I don’t tell Becka, and then Trance tells her, Becka will see that as a lie. Then she’ll be even angrier with me than she’s gonna be any way. Crap. What should I do? If I tell her what I did, she’s gonna spank me again. Well maybe she won’t. I just know she will. This sucks. Sucks, Sucks, Sucks!’
Becka watched various emotions flash across Harper’s face. She waited patiently for him to work out his thoughts.
Harper bit his lip and then said, “When we get home I’ll need to tell you about last night, and you aren’t going to like it.”
Becka lost her smile and said, “Okay Harper. Let’s get you out of here.”
Harper had the bracelet removed, and signed all the papers. Becka had brought his money for him, and he paid off his bill. He noticed that they charged him extra for the bracelet, which pissed him off, but didn’t want to say anything bad to them about it with Becka there. Trance came to see them before they left. She said, “So I’ll see you both tomorrow at the airport.”
Harper said sincerely, “I’m glad you’ll be coming with us Trance. We’ll have lots of fun.”
Becka said, “We’ll see you then.”
Trance said, “Sounds great.”

The ride back to the Maru was silent. When they got in, Becka said, “Lets go talk in the mess hall.”
Harper nodded. They spent most of their time together when they were just talking and having fun in the mess hall. Becka got them both some juice, and sat down to listen to Harper.
Harper said in a rush, “Last night after I apologized to everyone and wrote my lines, I went to the training room and jacked in. About half an hour later they found me, and made me go back to my room.”
Becka sat quietly for a few minutes while Harper squirmed in his seat and felt his stomach churning. Becka looked in Harper’s eyes and said, “Thank you for being honest and telling me about it before I found out from someone else. Why did you do it?”
Harper mumbled something that Becka couldn’t quite make out. She said in a clam voice, “I couldn’t hear you. Why did you jack in last night knowing that you were told not to by the hospital?”
Harper said, “Because I was mad, and I wanted to.”
Becka nodded her head and was quiet again for a while. She said, “Any thing else you want to tell me?”
Harper looked at her and said, “I’m really sorry, and I won’t do it again.”
Becka nodded again and said, “Was the bracelet to make sure you stayed in your room?”
Harper nodded.
“All right then, come with me.”
Harper followed her slowly to her bedroom. She closed the door after them. She said, “Harper, I need to think for a minute. Please go stand and face that corner until I call for you.”
Harper looked surprised, but went to the corner without complaint. He was happy to put off the inevitable.
Becka thought her informal command style usually worked well for them, but she decided they needed to write down a few rules about his neural port. That way there would be no misunderstandings between them. She could tell it was something that Harper was going to push every chance he got. She went to her desk and wrote some of her thoughts down. She could see Harper fidgeting in the corner. When she was done writing, she pulled the desk chair out and put the back of it against her bed. She went to get the hairbrush off her dresser and said, “Okay Harper come here.”
Harper saw the chair and the hairbrush and felt like crying already. He slowly walked over to Becka. She gave him a quick hug, because he looked so miserable, and then sat down, and pulled him face down across her lap. She said, “After this spanking we’re going to work together and make a short list of rules for your neural port.”
Harper said nothing, so Becka went on to say, “Did I tell you to behave for the rest of the night when I left?”
Harper said, “Yes.”
“Do you think disregarding your doctor’s orders and sneaking off to jack into the computer was a good way to behave?”
Harper hated questions like that. It just made him feel worse. He said, “No.”
Becka said, “I know you may not think so, but when you don’t follow your doctor’s orders, you’re being harmful to yourself, and if I can stop you from hurting yourself I will. Do you understand me?”
Harper wished she would just get on with it. He said, “Yes.”
He felt her arm around his waist holding him tighter, and he closed his eyes and held his breath without realizing he was doing it. Soon he felt it and heard it. Smack, smack!
He let his breath out in a grunt, and tried to be still and quiet while she spanked him. By the tenth swat he couldn’t be still or quiet. He started squirming to get away, and yelping with each swat. Becka held him tight and continued to spank him.
By the twentieth, Harper knew he couldn’t take much more without crying. He yelled, “I’m sorry …Aah… Becka please …Oohh…stop, please!
Becka continued spanking while she said, “You did something dangerous to yourself Harper. I need you to learn that that’s not acceptable.”
Harper could barely make out what she was saying and yelled, “I won’t …Oww… do it again!…Unhh…Please stop!…Aahhh
Becka shook her head and kept spanking. Soon Harper did start to cry, and he stopped pleading. Becka concentrated the last few spanks on his sit spots. When she was done, she tossed the brush behind her on the bed. She rubbed Harper’s back for a minute while he lay there. He realized she wasn’t holding him down anymore, and started to stand up. She helped him up, and then pulled him to a sitting position on her lap. She made sure most of the pressure was on his thighs, and not his butt. He struggled a bit, but soon let her hold him while he cried. When he had calmed down enough to talk he said, “I’m s..sorry Becka.”
Becka said, “I know Harper. It’s okay now. I forgive you, and I trust you’ll make better choices in the future.”
Harper stood up and rubbed his butt while he watched Becka put away her chair and brush. Then she picked up the paper she had been writing on and said, “Go get cleaned up and meet me in the mess hall. We’ll have lunch and go over some rules for the neural port.”
Harper nodded and headed for the bathroom. He drank some water and took an aspirin. He wiped up his face and looked at his butt in the mirror. It was very red with some lighter raised spots where he would be sitting. He didn’t understand how Becka had such good aim. Like the first time she spanked him, he was going to have just a couple of bruises where he sat down, and the rest of his butt would just be sore for a couple of days. He gently pulled his pants back up, and went to meet Becka in the mess hall.

Becka sat on a stool by the counter with some blank paper and some sandwiches. Harper came and stood by her. While they ate, Becka said, “I just want us to make a quick list of the rules Trance told you to follow, so that we can make sure you don’t make yourself sick.”
Harper didn’t like the idea, but said, “Okay.”
Soon they had written:
1. Harper will keep track of the amount of time he spends jacked in, and he will record it daily on a calendar in the mess hall.
2. Harper will not use his neural port on the seventh day when he has used it for six days straight.
3. Harper will not stay jacked in for more than three hours a day.
4. Harper will tell Becka immediately if he has any pain in his neck or head.

Harper wasn’t happy with the list, but he agreed that it did seem fairly reasonable. Becka said, “Thanks for helping me make the list, and for not getting too upset about it. I know you don’t like me telling you what to do, but I really do worry that you’ll hurt yourself if you don’t have some kind of clear guidelines with this. I’ll keep this in my desk, in case we need to look at it again.”
Harper didn’t say much, but he nodded.
Becka decided now was a good time to bring up something she had been thinking about since she had agreed to take Trance aboard with them. She said, “Harper, there’s one more thing I want to make clear today, so there are no unpleasant surprises down the road for us. I want you to know that I will not hesitate to punish you while Trance is with us.”
Harper looked horrified and said, “You can’t be serious!”
Becka said, “Yes I am serious. I don’t want to embarrass you or make you feel worse, but I will spank you if I think you need it. I’ll try to make it as private as possible by taking you to my room, and asking Trance to do something on the other side of the ship, but it’s a small ship, and she very well may hear us.”
Harper glared at her and said, “You say you don’t want to embarrass me, but then you say you’ll spank me when Trance is here. Gosh Becka, how do you think that’ll make me feel!
Becka counted to ten in her head and said calmly, “Let me rephrase it for you. I hope you don’t get into trouble while Trance is here, or ever for that matter. I really don’t want to embarrass you, but if you do something I consider dangerous, then I believe a little embarrassment is a small price to pay for keeping you safe and alive. I’m sorry if you don’t understand my logic, but if you’re really worried that Trance will find out about it, then I suggest you behave.”
Harper crossed his arms and looked at the floor and said, “I don’t like it, but I guess that doesn’t matter. Can we talk about something else?”
Becka said, “Just one more thing, and then we can talk about nicer things. Because you jacked in yesterday, you may not jack in today. You can start tomorrow once Trance is here and settled in.”
Harper looked defeated and said, “Okay.”
Soon they were talking about Trance moving in.