Thanks to everyone who read. As always, reviews are appreciated.


Harper sang along cheerfully to the music playing over the speakers, not bothering to worry about volume since Tyr was off settling up with the Squeegees and wasn't here to complain. Not that he worried too much about it when Tyr was around to complain, but courtesy and all of that. He almost had this wire nest sorted—he had no idea what idiot had done the install work, but they ought to be shot just on general principle—and once that was done...well, he had a few more panels that he wanted to add down here in engineering, a few more up in command since the things he needed to know weren't always the same things Tyr was interested in, and then he'd be about set. Or at least that set of projects would be done.

For now. Until he came up with something else he wanted to add.

He probably ought to cross-check with Tyr and make sure there wasn't anything else he wanted routed to command too as long as Harper had things mostly opened up. He'd never been to Squeegee Station before, but he'd had a chat with one of their passengers when they'd crossed paths yesterday and then checked their directory after they'd docked and the odds were good that they'd have what he needed or at least close enough that he could make it work.

He had some bits and pieces he wanted to hunt down for the racer, too, since he had yet to find anything likely up in the bay, plus some more repulsor circuitry because he got the distinct impression that Tyr had more specs for experimental weaponry.

Fun problems. He'd get a list together after he was done here and run through it with Tyr over dinner; that would give him most of tomorrow on station to go hunting.

He finally got the last wire coaxed into place and reactivated the circuitry with a pleased hum. That was how you wired a secondary power relay, thank you very much. He shut the panel with a bang and mentally checked another thing off before moving on. The next console was the one running the program to fake out whoever had been tracking Tyr, and it was probably beyond a lost cause at this point, but Tyr was way nastier than him on the tactics end and might still have plans so after a quick check the status was still looking good and their completely fabricated route information was still being transmitted he let it be. It wasn't like it was costing him more than a few minutes here and there anyway.

The last console on that wall was for the slipstream drive, and he called up his much larger list of projects where that was concerned. Nothing critical was left on it, he objected to being splattered all over the cosmos just as much as Tyr did, but there were some shortcuts that had been made over the years with regards to maintenance that he'd like to get back up to spec, and it'd be better to do them when none of the engines were engaged.

After Squeegee Station they were headed into Uber—Nietzschean—space for another transport job per Tyr, and as far as Harper was concerned there was nothing worth sticking his head off the ship for on a station like that so he'd start with one of the slipstream fixes then unless Tyr came up with something more important for him to work on.

Something rattled behind him, and he turned with a frown. Whatever Tyr had to say about his organizational skills, he was intelligent enough not to leave things lying around to the point where they could come flying at his head at an inconvenient time, and the workbench against that wall was clean.

Reasonably clean.

Well, there was nothing that should be falling off and rattling towards him on the floor, anyway.

And then he smelled it, and he threw himself towards the door even as he scrabbled for the communicator in his tool belt. "Tyr! Gas!"


"Harper!"

The little professor was nowhere to be seen, and Tyr snarled as he checked the readouts on the scanner in his hand. Per the readings there was residue in the air, a very low concentration of something not typically found in the ship's air handling systems, but there wasn't enough for the scanner to offer anything specific in the way of identification. And his engineer was clearly not here. Neither of those things pleased him.

"Harper, get out here!" he barked.

Unfortunately, despite his order there was no Harper lowering himself down from the ceiling or crawling out of one of his other random hiding spaces or anything else, and Tyr's communicator remained stubbornly silent. He flexed a hand against the handle of his sidearm.

Harper was no fool. The instant he recognized gas he would have gotten himself clear; he would have been doing that even as he shouted for Tyr. He was sensitive to far too many things in this universe, knew it, and didn't generally take stupid chances. At least not when it didn't involve inane water sports with no redeeming value.

That didn't explain why he hadn't gotten in contact with Tyr as soon as he was safely out of range, though.

Tyr checked the readouts on the scanner in his hand one more time and then removed his mask to see if his nose could tell him anything that its sensors couldn't, but that was a futile effort as well, and he set the scanner and mask aside and checked the screens on the nearby consoles to see if they could give him any information. There appeared to be nothing amiss on any of them, though, not so much as an active warning light, and he stepped back with a frown because upon reflection that was perfectly reasonable. He couldn't think of a single thing in engineering that could or should emit a gas.

So if there had been gas it would have had to come from one of the ship's main systems? But if that had been the case he'd have been expecting alarms to be blaring everywhere not just Harper shouting for him over the comms, and the scanner should have detected that strange residue elsewhere. He was very sure that he hadn't seen any odd readings until he entered engineering itself.

He brought up the ship's life support information on the console in front of him, and as he'd suspected there was no sign of any unusual gasses or contamination of any form in the air recyclers except those leading out of engineering, but if it hadn't come from the ship's systems the options were very limited.

It took a minute to switch the scanners over, but when he did he found no sign of a second lifeform on board, and as much as a fear he didn't care to admit to had him doing a rapid search of the corridors nearest engineering, somehow he wasn't surprised when he didn't find Harper.

He returned to examining his ship's systems. If it hadn't come from the ship's systems someone had to have introduced it, and if they'd come onboard to do that Harper's absence had another explanation. A potentially more sinister one, although alive was obviously better than the other option.

None of the ship's sensors were off, he had watchdog programs that would alert him the moment they were disabled and a quick query confirmed that they were still working, but as he rotated through the feeds he discovered that the sensors covering the secondary entrance hatch to the ship had somehow malfunctioned. In fact were currently continuing to malfunction, although when he checked several earlier records he discovered that they'd been functioning just fine until an hour or so ago. About the time that the Squirgins had finished offloading their cargo.

With a growl he set up the computer to see if it could pull anything from the badly-obscured images that it had captured before heading for his quarters. And his guns. It appeared that someone had taken Harper, and that was completely unacceptable.