Title: The nietzchean or the tiger
Email address: Sunsinger@aol.com
Rating: PG for now
Pairings: well we will see but Dylan/Radhe is mentioned
Series/Sequel: Better not be
Pairing: well we will see but Dylan/Radhe is mentioned
Author's website: http://writingonthewall.slashcity.net/~sunsinger/Woods.htm
Disclaimer: Does anyone think i own them? Please raise your hands if you do? ::crickets chirping:: good then
Summary: Who will Dylan chose? the Nietzschean or the Tiger? Which would be better to choose?
Warnings: Talk of Cannibalism.
NIETZCHEAN OR THE TIGER
Radhe burst onto the bridge and shot Reflections of Dawn. Dylan looked up in surprise and aimed. The firefight was fast and furious. Finally, after a strenuous fight, Dylan got in a lucky shot and Radhe fell behind the railing. Dylan jumped up and ran over to Radhe, turning him over to check his vitals, Dylan froze. Sarah. It wasn't Gaheris, it was Sarah.
* * *
Dylan sat up in his dark room. Tomorrow we... I boot up the pysch program. I can't take much more of these dreams. Three years of this is enough. Every time it us the same two dreams. Either I kill Radhe and he becomes Sarah, or I see Sarah standing on the bridge of her ship, watching me as I return. I look back for one more look and it's not Sarah, it's 'Heris. The one thing I could remember thinking when I first saw her standing on her bridge. Right now, Gaheris lies trapped in the black hole dying. Of the two people I love the most, one lies dying by my hand in my ship on my bridge and will be dying for three hundred years. The other is standing here in the past and she knows that I can not stay here cause I always do my duty. Then a huge feeling on loneliness settles on me. Now back here, now, I feel more alone than before.
* * *
Two years ago on Planet Darwin
"Welcome back, Gaheris Radhe II."
The young man opened his eyes to see a classically handsome face looking down on him. It was more distinguishable than any other Nietzschean face. Smiling the man reached down and sat Radhe up.
"Who are you?"
"I'm Onnika Harris. And you are a clone of one Gaheris Radhe. When you wake up again, I'll explain. Rest now." Onnika walked out of the room smiling. Soon, Captain Hunt, you will be destroyed and so will your chance to ruin the Second Nietzschean Tactical Offensive.
* * *
Three years ago
Radhe lay on the deck of the bridge of the Andromeda Ascendant. His blood spilled on the golden deck, a stark red against the warm metal. His brown eyes looked up at Dylan, "I'm so... proud of... you."
Dylan stared at the rapidly cooling body of his lover. *Proud of me, Gaheris. Oh Gaheris. I love you. This is the first time you have ever said you were proud of me. I know you love me but now you're proud of me and to gain your approval... all I had to do was... kill you. Gaheris.
Dylan knelt on the bridge of Andromeda, sadness beyond tears reflected in his eyes and in his mind he laughed into madness. Tilting his head up, Dylan screamed to the uncaring universe, the sound swallowed up by the all-consuming black hole of Hephaestus.*
* * *
Dylan woke up with blood in his mouth from biting his tongue. No more. I have to activate Rolf. Getting out of bed, Dylan walked over o the table. "Rommie, Thirty percent light, please."
"Yes, Captain." The light rose slowly.
"Activate Rolf, please? And leave him active for a while."
"Yes, Captain. Activating Rolf now."
On the main screen in his quarters a miniature but perfectly proportioned man stood. "Captain Hunt, you have need for me?"
"Yes... I have been having some very weird dreams."
* * *
Captain Dylan Hunt, Commander in the High Guard walked onto the bridge of the Andromeda Ascendant. Taking his seat, he looked over the reports Rommie had complied over the night shift. Looking up at the view screen, Dylan spoke to his crew.
"I have taken the liberty of reactivating Rolf. He's an AI like Rommie but a little less sophisticated. His job is to be ship's counselor. If you feel the need to talk to him, go ahead. He will keep everything you say a secret unless it's obvious that you are going to kill yourself or someone else or harm Rommie."
Turning the captain's chair around, he smiles at Harper. "So what is this about a flutter in Rommie's auxiliary system?"
Tyr stood at the weapons station and smiled.
* * *
Two years ago on Darwin's Planet
The young man awoke again and waited. Soon the door opened and the beautiful woman entered. She walked over and sat on the bed.
"Glad you are awake Gaheris."
"Onnika. Tell me why you cloned me."
"Very well. In Common Year 9774 Gaheris Radhe became the second in command on the Andromeda Ascendant to Dylan Hunt, a new captain. In CY 9780, the Commonwealth negotiated on a cease-fire with the Magog. In CY 9781 they made a treaty with the Magog. In CY9782 the Nietzscheans started a contingency plan called the Nietzschean Tactical Offensive. In CY9784 they stood at Hephaestus. Behind them was an enormous black hole. They sent a courier out to search for the first Deep Stand-Off Attack class or larger ship. The Adarigo, one of the System Courier Ships we were able to take over, lured the first ship they came across, it was a Heavy Cruiser (XMC) of the Glorious Heritage Class, it was Andromeda Ascendant. Commander Gaheris Radhe was Hunt's executive officer, second in command. Commander Gaheris Radhe was a true Nietzschean.
"Radhe we know, by his own diary, was Hunt's sexual companion, or as humans term them, lovers. Hunt is the epitome of Commonwealth High Guard. In Radhe's own words:
I was once asked, while on a diplomatic mission to Planet Xalay, to describe the Commonwealth High Guard in 50 words or less. I said 'Dylan Hunt. To explain it would take me at least thirty minutes and a minimum of 3000 words.'
"From what we can gather from our information sources, Radhe attacked Hunt on the bridge of the Andromeda Ascendant. Eventually Hunt shot Radhe. Radhe died either immediately prior or immediately after entering the event horizon of the black hole.
"Three hundred and three years later, the Eureka Maru, salvages the Andromeda Ascendant. Dylan Hunt decides to reestablish the Commonwealth or at least try. The crew of the Eureka Maru..." Onnika turned to the wall screen and clicked on a pictured.
"Captain Beka Valentine, who is now First Officer." The picture showed a young middle aged woman with a certain hardness and fire in her eyes.
"Seamus Harper, he is the ship's engineer and we can say a genius." A young gawky man filled the screen with a slightly off center tilt.
"Trance Gemini. What is she? We don't know." A young perky woman stood smiling at the lens, the bright lavender skin and the waving devil's tail did nothing to detract from her sheer... perkiness. "She's an optimist. A major failing.
"Rev Bem. One of the few good Magog if there is such a thing. He's a member of the People of the Way." The face that stared out of the screen tried to approximate a human grin and failed miserably.
"And now, this one. A traitor to everything Nietzscheans hold to be true. Tyr Anasazi of the Kodiak Clan. They were once keepers of the remains of the Progenitor until they were betrayed by an alliance headed by the Drago-Kazov Pride. They were exterminated except for Tyr. If there is another survivor, we have not heard of them.
"Captain Hunt managed to get the crew of the Eureka Maru to join his crew. Together they are trying to reestablish the Commonwealth which I can tell you the Vedrans would appreciate it. They lost a lot when the Commonwealth fell. It was but what they deserved as they, who in the beginning conquered so many systems became soft. Soft enough to make a treaty with the Magog. And they did not stop at that disgusting and vile betrayal, they offered the Magog... membership in the Commonwealth. This is what lead to the Nietzschean Tactical Offensive and it is what is leading to the Second Nietzschean Tactical Offensive. Hunt doesn't know but that the Vedrans are already starting to rebuild their network and in less than ten years the Commonwealth will rise again, slowly but surely. They plan to allow Magog, not just those of the People of the Way, but all Magog to be part of this Second Commonwealth. This must not be. That is why you are here. We need you to destroy Dylan Hunt. Not with warheads or with missiles but from the inside out. He must give up on the Commonwealth, for if the best of the High Guard, the one faithful gives up... then there is really no use for a Second Commonwealth. It will be a blow to the Vedrans who will then hold up enough for us to establish order. Are you ready, Gaheris Radhe?"
Radhe looked up and smiled.
*This is a SOS from the transport ship *Rakshava*. We have been attacked by pirates. We are humans who sought a new life on the planet Haven. Please if there is anyone to hear this, help us. We are landing on the fifth planet of the Altis Planari System. This is a SOS from the transport ship *Rakshava*. We have been attacked by pirates. We are humans who sought a new life on the planet Haven. Please if there is anyone to hear this, help us. We are landing on the fifth planet of the Altis Planari System. This is a SOS from the transport ship *Rakshava*. We have been attacked by pirates. We are humans who sought a new life on the planet Haven. Please if there is anyone to hear this, help us. We are landing on the fifth planet of the Altis Planari System.*
"Enough, Rommie. How far are we from that system?" Dylan asked as he settled into the captain's seat.
"We are about 4 hours from there, Captain. Shall I lay in a course?" Rommie replied
"Captain?" Tyr Anasazi called out from behind the tactical station, "I don't think this is a good idea. We don't know how many of them there are or what their talents are. It is unwise to allow yourself to be outnumbered."
"Tyr, they need help and you're right. We don't know what talents they have. It might be that they have a talent that we need. And isn't 'Rakshava' a Nietzschean word?"
"It means 'Survivor'."
"Then let's see if there are any. Rommie, let's go to the fifth planet."
* * *
The *Andromeda Ascendant* sailed through the dark night of space towards the fifth planet of the Altis Planari system. On the fifth planet, a sensor array beeped quietly insistent. A young man ran down the incline and into the cave, sweat sticking his hair to his face, he paused and took time to take deep breaths. Straightening up, he walked over, checking the data the array displayed, he smiled. Lifting it. He placed it into a recess in the cave wall. Then went over to awaken the other three.
* * *
Raa ran across the drum sand carefully. I can't let them see me. It would have to be drum sand on this planet. When I get across here, straight up the cliff, and there should be caves. Caves to hide in. Caves to trap them in. Cave shelves to drop on them. I love my people but let it never be said we don't know how to be pragmatists. Raa climbed up the cliff, hands instinctively finding holds. With a final large tug, he was on top of the cliff. Turning over onto his stomach, he looked for his pursuers. Seeing them at the base of the cliff, he forced himself to get up and start heading towards the plateau and find those caves the scanner picked up as the transport went down.
Overhead, a large streak of fire ran across the sky. Looking up, Raa noticed it was supposed to come down on the other side of the plateau. Perhaps, I can get there before those three. Of course though, they haven't been running for 3 days straight.
Raa took off, arm wrapped around his ribs as the acid in his muscles built up, and he headed for where he had last seen the shuttle land. Bursting from the trees at the end of the plateau, disgust colored his face, as there was no sign of the shuttle. Ahead of him, the land dropped, flopping down onto his stomach he saw the shuttle in a small dip. Four figures stepped out. Two were human, a man and a woman. One was a purple something. The other was Nietzschean.
Straining his hearing to determine if the others had caught up to him, he tensed. Nothing. He relaxed muscles that were sore with exertion and in pain. Laying his head on the ground, Raa tried to control his gasping. Suddenly a snap, a click told him that his rest was over. He had a choice, either he faced the three behind him or he took a chance on the four ahead of him. He could play on the humans' weaknesses. He looked harmless but the Nietzschean wouldn't trust him. The Nietzschean might in fact give him to the three that followed. I told those fools that if we have to eat the dead at least prepare them so it won't go bad... no... poor specimens of Nietzscheans that they are, they glutted themselves and now they've decided that I'm a tasty morsel.
A bolt flew by his head, Raa spun over, jumping into a runner's stance, and he took off. Looks like I'll take my chances with the four of them. Remind me what made me take a position on a transport? How could I have sunk so low as to really be on a transport? The only women one can meet there are humans. Raa ran down the scree, surprising the four at the bottom. Taking their appearance in at a glance he ducked behind the purple one.
* * *
Dylan turned at the sound of rock falling. A young man scrambled down the scree and jumped behind Trance. Breathing harshly, he looked up at them.
"Hi. Looking for your colonists?" he said.
"Dead. All of them. They died in the crash or rather most of them did. Some died later. At one point the crew decided to eat the dead to survive, it was the most practical thing after all. Unfortunately most of the meat went bad. There are no native animals to eat. Now they are onto live game."
"What?! What sort of people are they?" Dylan exclaimed
"Let me guess: Not your colonists? You are not from Haven." Raa deduced.
"No, I'm captain Dylan Hunt of the Commonwealth Starship *Andromeda Ascendant.*"
"The Commonwealth doesn't exist anymore." Raa stated
"As long as I live, it does."
"*Andromeda Ascendant*? Wasn't that lost at the Hephaestus black hole?"
"We broke free."
"Apparently, well this was a nice rest but since they are coming, it's time for me to throw an unknown factor into their plan."
"Is that why you are hiding behind Trance?" Tyr questioned.
"Trance?" The purple girl smiled down on him, "Well, I have no idea what in the universe she is, or if she is dangerous. Those idiots out there don't know what she is either or if she is dangerous. You are a Nietzschean, they know you. Those two are humans, and easily defeated. This one... who knows?" Raa scrambled to his feet.
"OK, so these guys are trying to kill you to eat you?" The human woman asked.
"Yeah but who knows they may keep you alive but these two they'll try to eat, Trance they won't touch." Raa answered her.
"OK. Who are they?"
"The crew of the Nietzschean transport ship *Rakshava*."
"They are Nietzscheans?" Dylan asked amazed.
"You who, if history is right for once, had a Nietzschean as your first officer and friend, rumored to be your best man at your wedding, which you missed. You are that Dylan Hunt of the Starship Andromeda Ascendant?"
"Then you should know as well as anyone other than a Nietzschean, that we as a people are practical. We hold nothing but the Progenitor and his works, Darwin and his works, and Dawkins and his works anywhere near close to sacred. They are dead. The 'soul' which you are probably concerned about isn't there. We need food. There is nothing here that even we can eat except for the trees. The fruits concentrate all that is bad in the soil, so eating them is poisonous even to us. The bark is OK, a bit dry. The water is flat and has a chemical aftertaste, too much of it is deadly. Insects have been rarely seen and never caught, so I can't tell you about them. The only palatable, nutritious, dietary correct food for maintaining brain function and mobility was the dead bodies. Do you expect us to starve? Please, don't be naive."
"So you just cut them up and made stew out of them?" Trance asked.
"No, we skinned them first. And now Trance, I suggest..." Raa swept Trance's legs from under her and dropped to the ground. "Oh well, see ya." Raa ducked into the shuttle.
A bolt hit the side right after he ducked in. Tyr turned, aimed and fired. Dylan raised his staff. One of the Nietzscheans fell, his head already at an unnatural angle. Tyr walked backwards to the door of the shuttle, helping Trance up as he passes her. The two remaining Nietzscheans attack Dylan and Beka. Using his staff, Dylan knocked the other two out and pushed Beka into the shuttle.
"Take us up, Tyr! Now!"
"Of course, Captain." Tyr raised the shuttle and they headed back to the *Andromeda.*
Dylan turned to their passenger. "Now perhaps you will tell us who you are?"
"Astrogator First Class Gavin Raa of the late and unmourned Nietzschean Transport Ship *Rakshava*."
Dylan turned around to face the front of the small shuttle. *Raa... he looks so much like 'heris. For all I know he may very well be related to him. A great-great-great-grand nephew. Just remember Dylan, he isn't Rhade, he can't be Rhade. You killed Gaheris Rhade. You loved him and you killed him. Remember that Dylan. You saw his staff lying there, you went to grab it, and you shot him in the chest with his staff. You held him as he died. You killed him, Dylan. Never forget that.* Dylan looked out the front viewport to the swelling shape of the Andromeda.
* * *
Tyr stared at the young man sitting quietly in the seat ahead of him. His long dark hair lay flat against his head, several small tufts fluffing as they dried. His eyes were closed, dark lashes resting on those space tan cheeks. His arms lay on the armrest, spikes pointed out in a defensive move. The spikes themselves were gently flared, creating a space around him. His chest rose and fell in a shallow pattern. Feeling Tyr's eyes on him, Raa opened his a crack and looked around. His eyes flicked to Tyr who was sitting a little bit back and on his right. Tyr thinks I'm up to something but then again... he is a Nietzschean. A Nietzschean who is working with Captain Dylan Hunt. This is intriguing. Most Nietzscheans would avoid the Commonwealth like the plague. It's time to pump Hunt for some information.
* * *
"Yes, Rha- Raa? And you can call me Dylan." *Rha-? Rhade.* "Thank you, Dylan? Would you care to introduce your crew? Trance, I've already met." Raa smiled.
"Oh yeah." Pointing over to Beka, "This is Beka Valentine, my first officer and captain of the salvage ship, Eureka Maru. Tyr was a mercenary that I happened to entice into working aboard the ship. On board we have Seamus Harper, he is a genius with computer and engineering systems. Also Rev Bem. He's a Magog. He's also a..."
"He's a member of the People of the Way. He wants to make up for the evil his people have done."
"Hunt, You are High Guard. From over three hundred years ago. You were alive when Brandenburg Tor was attacked. They killed over three billion sentients. Did you forget that? Did you forget the pictures of them ripping the innards out to lay their eggs?"
"No. The Commonwealth always allowed people to find a way to make up mistakes."
"That's why the Commonwealth died." Turning to face Tyr, "Is he always this... *idealistic*?" Raa sneered.
"Sometimes worse." Tyr stated.
"Oh well, I'll just have to make sure he doesn't get me killed."
* * *
Beka docked the shuttle and they walked down the hall to the bridge.
"So, Raa how long has it been since you sent the distress signal?"
"Distress signal, Hunt? Nietzschean ships don't have distress signals. We do however have message beacons. We sent one off into a normal transport route for clerical reasons. Things get all tangled up when there are mysteries. They know where we went down, so if HavenCorp wants to find their colonists, they know where to look."
"No distress signals? Must have been a Nietzschean transport." A young man with a jack sticking out of his neck said.
"You must be Seamus. Hunt said you were a genius but it doesn't take a genius to figure that out. Gavain Raa."
"Hello, Gavain. Another stray, Dylan?"
"Maybe, and what is this **thing you all have about Nietzschean transports?" Dylan asked
"I guess you wouldn't know, Dylan but Nietzscheans as you do know often stay close to home. There are always some that chose to enter military endeavors and they are lauded. Some choose to use their brainpower and go into commerce and business. The more successful they are, the more women take notice of them. Then there are those who are not successful in fighting, who are mental giants, they aren't even mental contenders. They are rejects. There are those who can't manage the simplest things, they are also the ones that no woman will choose to breed with. They fall into three categories: colonists, this isn't a very big group, after all who wants colonists who don't breed; mercenaries, even though all Nietzscheans have a mercenary nature we fight for our own, not others, so they aren't too large a group either; and then there is us, we work transport ships.
"We transport anything. Waste, People, Products. There are always more of us, so if a ship goes down, they worry more about what was on the ship and will they lose the contract. So what is it about Nietzschean transport? Only the poorest and lowest of the low take us. If they wanted Nietzscheans and they had money, they would have their own ship and bring in a crew from one of the homeworlds.
"Oh, so you are all expendable?" Dylan asked.
"More than expendable, useless."
"It seems to me, that you don't fit the descriptions that you give me of the 'rejects'." The Magog said.
"Well, let's see it's like this. Either I fought with someone who I knew I couldn't beat or I ran until I could fight him. I decided I wanted to live. As the old adage says, 'Run to live to fight another day.' Nietzscheans survive. We may not always win but we survive and if we survive then sooner or later we will win if only by surviving until everyone else is dead."
"I see. Thank you for this glimpse into Nietzschean philosophy."
"What are you going to do about the other Nietzscheans on the planet?"
"I don't know." Dylan said, slipping into his chair.
"Why do anything, Hunt? Tyr killed one of them so they have food, if they die before someone comes looking for the colonists, then they obviously are more inferior than was previously thought. If they do manage to survive then they might just get a woman to show some interest in them." Raa stated. "Besides if you bring them on board you either have to keep them locked up or take them as crew. Keep them locked up and they will find a way out, and then they'll either steal a ship or find a set of Nietzscheans to take over this one. Let them run free and the first time any Nietzschean vessel comes within range they'll betray you to them in return for status and a chance of breeding.
"As is, next time you run into a Nietzschean vessel you will do well to keep Tyr and myself under your eyes. After all, you should have learned by now that Nietzscheans have the original mercenary mindset. I noticed that Beka Valentine is your first officer, which meant Gaheris Rhade did not manage to take over this ship. One could assume he was alive but you did not list him in your crew, which means he died. Most likely he died by your hand. Strange that a human could actually manage to kill one of us. Lucky shot, I bet."
"Yes, he did. So you are saying, I can't trust you or Tyr when there are other Nietzschean around?"
"I'm saying," said Raa behind clenched teeth, "that you can't afford to take any chances with us. We are Nietzscheans and we always survive by taking the winning side. If you can't win then we won't stand with you. Not unless we really believe in what you are selling, and that's not likely. You are an optimist in a universe where optimism almost always gets people killed. I'm glad you believe you can survive you optimism but I don't have any reassurance that I will. Now you can either drop me off at the next habitable planet or you get yourself a new crewman. Either way, I survive. And I know these are you only two choices cause you are if nothing else Captain Dylan Hunt of the High Guard. Well?
Three months later
Dylan sat in his chair and looked over the reports. Rather he was looking at them but not seeing them. *I wonder if Raa knows how distracting he is?*
* * *
Raa let the rhythm of his feet carry him away.
Raa ran around the deck, heading into what used to be officer country. His hair hung down in his eyes, the body hugging suit showed every ripple and muscle. Breathing deeply, Raa turned the corner to the present crew quarter. Ahead of him, Dylan was just coming out of his quarters. Dylan was dressed in soft baggy shorts and an old T-shirt. A small bag was flipped over his head to hang shoulder to hip.
"Dylan, come run with me. It's refreshing and relaxing."
"Raa. I was about to go play some basketball. How about we run there?"
"How about we take the long route and then I can whip your ass playing basketball."
"Sure, I'll even teach you how to play... within the rules of course." Dylan turned and started off.
"Rules, as you humans say, are made to be broken." Raa replied laughing. His eyes sparked a glorious brown.
"Some are, basketball isn't. The whole point of the game is to manage to score the most points within a rigid system of rules. If you break the rules, it's as good as saying that you can't think of a way to win." Dylan stopped and turned to Raa. Raa bumped into him.
"Oh?" Raa looked up at him, since Raa only came up to his chin. "So if I cheat, then I'm too stupid to think of a way to win?"
"Yeah." Dylan looked down at the devilish grin on Raa's face. "So can you play within the rules?"
"Of course." Raa lifted his hand to Dylan's chest, slipping his hand between Dylan's shirt and the bag, laying his hand over Dylan's heart, "Since you are such a pro," Raa stretched up to look at Dylan, "I'll expect you to give me 2 points and 2 free throws." Laughing, Raa, flipped Dylan's bag over his head and took off down the hall. Dylan stared after him. *Beautiful. Now let's see if I can get him so sweaty, he'll have change to change in lighter clothes.*
* * *
Dylan stepped in and stole the ball from Raa, with a grin he dribbled it past Raa's astonished face and shot the ball through the hoop. Raa looked at him, "Very good, Dylan. That makes it 59 to 14, your favor. Want to stop?"
"Sure, I should put you out of your misery." Dylan said holding the ball.
"Very funny, Dylan. Now what prize do you want? After all you won the bet." Raa asked.
Dylan placed the ball down on the side and tossed Raa a towel. "Easy. Tonight, after our bridge shift, you come to dinner." Dylan said, drying his hair
Raa looked up, draping the towel about his shoulder, "Dinner? At your quarters?"
"OK, say about an hour after shift?" Raa asked smirking at Dylan.
"Good. You know I thought Nietzscheans never bet unless it was a sure thing." Dylan said as he slung his bag over his shoulder.
"And who said that this isn't exactly what I had planned Dylan?" Raa said as he slipped out the door.
Dylan ran after him, laughing. "OK. If you say so." Dylan put an arm around Raa and smiled. *Forgive me 'heris.
* * * *
Look at them, Dylan with his arm around Raa's shoulders. I know what you are up to Raa. I know you plan to seduce Dylan away from his work. I know you. You are using your looks to take away our chances. You look like Rhade and don't pretend you don't. You know you do. Who sent you, who sent you to destroy Dylan? I will destroy you, Raa.
*** * *
"Dylan looked up as Tyr walked onto the bridge. "Hey Tyr."
"Tyr, tell me something if you can?"
"Since you are asking me, I take it that Raa did something."
"Well, yeah. As I understood it, Nietzscheans hate to lose. Once, I was playing Go with Rhade, and I discovered he was cheating. He said that to a Nietzschean winning was everything. A matter of life and death. It could be something so simple as a game of Go or a duel but that they always had to win."
"Yes." Tyr walked over to the tactical station and checked that everything was OK, "And?"
"Today, I met Raa on my way to play basketball. I asked him to join in. He agreed and as we played, I realized he was holding back. Several times I saw him almost make a shot but he checked himself."
"There's something you aren't telling me."
"We made a bet."
"Very well. I would hazard a guess that he wanted to lose. That by losing, he wins."
"That's what I don't understand."
"Captain, you see this basketball game as simply a game. Once time is up, it's over. For Nietzscheans it's never over. In Go or chess you might sacrifice a piece to force your opponent to make another move. And when he does, you are in a stronger position that you were before. If Raa 'lost' the game, thereby allowing you to 'win' you bet. It's most likely that he wants you to do something, he wants you to make a certain move."
"Hmmm, thanks Tyr."
"Welcome Captain, you are of course aware that he knows you were going to ask me this and he knows what I will tell you. He has factored this into his equations. You just made the move he expected."
"I see and he knows you are going to warn me off, so I have two choices. Either act like we didn't talk and pretend I don't know what he's doing, or act on your advice. If I don't react then he'll think I'm just pretending or I'm just dense. I do act, he'll know that I know what he's up to. This is confusing. I think that's why I like Nietzscheans."
"I see. Perhaps we can get together later after shift to discuss Nietzschean philosophy, Captain?"
"I would love to Tyr." Dylan smiled up at his Nietzschean Tac Officer, "But I can't. Perhaps, Tomorrow?"
As if his very name called him up, Raa walked off the lift and onto the bridge. He had changed into the dark red leather pants for ordinary shipwork. A small cut off tee that left his midriff bare graced his torso.
"Sorry I'm late, Hunt." Raa said smiling.
"It's OK, there's nothing happening right now anyhow."
"Ok, Hunt." Raa turned and walked over to Tyr, "Anything of interest?"
"Not really." Tyr said.
Dylan watched his two Nietzschean crew for a moment. *I don't know what I'm going to do about those two. Tyr obviously sees him as a rival. Raa on the other hand is playing like this is all normal, natural. Which means he has to be up to something. Why me?* Dylan looked down at his reports and grinned. Finally a way to get off the bridge and out of the line of fire. Dylan stood up and waving the reports made his excuse and left.
Sighing, Dylan leaned against the wall outside of the bridge. "Rommie?"
"Is there anyway for me to listen to what those two talk about in there?"
"It would be an invasion of privacy, Captain."
* * *
"Tyr, why do you oppose me for Dylan?" Raa asked quietly, looking down at his station.
"Why are you challenging me for Dylan?" Tyr asked.
"I happen to think that save for his optimism, Hunt would be a good colleague and second to me."
"So you plan on being Alpha?"
"Who else but an Alpha would even try to get Dylan?"
"You want Dylan and so do I. We will see who Dylan picks."
"Yes, we will."
* * *
In a maintenance tube, Dylan sat back, thinking over the conversation that he just heard. Quickly, Dylan headed towards his quarters.
Opening the door he called, "Rolf!"
"Welcome Captain, how may I help you?" Rolf asked pleasantly.
"I need you to explain something to me."
"I just overheard both Tyr and Raa state that they plan to fight over me. That I was fit only for an Alpha. Explain." Dylan raged. He slammed the reports down and fell into a chair.
"Well Captain. As far as I know, Nietzscheans marry for reproduction, however some Nietzscheans do take long term lovers. They are always of the same gender, and since two people of the same gender can not have a child, these are usually matches made strictly for what some call love. You and Rhade had such a match. Since Radhe is no longer alive I can tell you that he was disturbed by your cessation of relations once you decided to pursue Sarah. In fact, Radhe once mentioned to me that he didn't know why you didn't want him anymore.
It wasn't like he was going to get in the way of your relationship with Sarah, since as a male he could not give birth.
"I would put forth the idea that both Raa and Tyr feel that you would be better served with themselves. Who do you feel an attraction to, if you feel so?"
"Tyr... is a strong, handsome man who anyone would love to be with. He's a good man. He's harsh but I can't find anything wrong with him. I admire him. I expect him to be a Nietzschean through and through."
"Raa, I'm not so sure of... he reminds me of Rhade a lot. Same laugh and mannerisms. It's like a younger Rhade but I know he isn't. My mind knows rather but my heart, my body still wants to hold him close and love him. I think it's cause of how much he looks like Rhade and I don't if I can separate Raa and Rhade."
"He's not Rhade though I too mistook him for Gaheris. If you are so unsure then perhaps you shouldn't see him in a romantic setting."
"Too late, he's coming for dinner."
* * *
Raa paced in front of Dylan's door. Breathing deep he paced, muttering to himself, "you can do it, I know you can and why cause you deserve to be alpha, you deserve Dylan. You will defeat Tyr."
Taking one last deep breath, he turned and knocked on the door.
Dylan opened the door, a smile gracing his lips, "Gavain, come in."
Raa stepped in, "So now that you have lured me to your lair, what shall you do with me?"
"I think I'll feed you, fatten you up and bake you into a pie," Dylan growled, his voice right over Raa's shoulder. "You know it figures that the Nietzscheans kept the old fairy tales, they probably researched them and kept the bloodier versions." Dylan walked past him and went into the kitchen area.
"Well, Dylan, the real reason for 'fairy tales' was to warn children about behaviors that were contrasurvival." Raa smiled shyly and walked around the room, lifting some items and studying them.
Finally he stopped in front of a picture. It was a rather large picture. Two men stood in the foreground. One was dress in the white peace dress uniform of the High Guard, his hard brushed back, calm blue eyes looking out his right hand reached across his body to shake the left hand of the diplomat to his left. In his left hand, between him and the diploma, a force lance. The top was tilted as if it was ready to fire. In the diplomat's right hand was held a staff of office. It too was tilted slight forward as if reinforcing the menace of the force lance. Behind and staggered outwards of both men were obviously their staff. Behind the High Guard another stood, his face held a faint suggestion of a smile. His dark eyes and black hair provided a stark contrast with his white uniform, the gently dark olive of his skin was overlaid with the paleness of a space tan, making him look even paler than usual. His force lance was held in an iron grip, brushing the spikes clasped tight to his arms, the end of the lance dropping a little below plane in his right hand. His left hand was obscured by his superior officer, a slight angle and a flash of white gave the impression that the arm was lifted. That the hand was pressing lightly into the small of the back of the superior officer.
"Rhade, Gaheris. 'Heris to me, when we were alone. My best friend, my first officer. Someone I hurt badly because I didn't understand about Nietzscheans." Dylan said quietly, right behind Raa.
"Tell me about him."
"Not tonight. Though you really do look a lot like him." Dylan reached up, stroking his thumb down Raa's cheek. "Tonight you'll tell me about you, where you come from, about life on the Rakshava, just tell me about you." Reaching out, Dylan took Raa's hand and led him over to the dinner table.
* * *
Raa ate the last of the milsi stalks and laughed, "So then my brother looked up at our mother and said, 'Well now we can see how fast he can heal.' Mother shook her head then asked why she was burdened with male children and left us to sort ourselves out."
"Seems as if you and your siblings had a lot of fun on Darwin's Planet."
"Yes, 78 percent of Darwin's planet is very rough and dry, a desert but it is good. Provides us with ample challenges to prove our fitness and strength. The rest of planet is either city or green, which we made. We are excellent with genetic manipulation. It's something we try to keep with, it can be used to help improve our genetic quality."
"I would guess so... does you genetic superiority lead you to dance?"
Dylan asked standing and cueing the music. With a small sad smile, Dylan offered his hand.
Raa stands up, "You mean the graceful movement in conjunction with a pleasing set pattern of notes? Yes, after all... it's a method of perfecting grace. Grace can help in all sorts of ways." Raa laid his hand in Dylan's.
Dylan swung him out of his seat, as a low thrum echoed through the room, the music soared up in loops and curls until it dropped from a birdlike whistle into a deep mournful sound of a whale. Dylan guided Raa in the steps of the dance, Raa flowed up against him at the crash of surf, like water itself. His bodied molded and rippled. His lips caress Dylan's shoulder. His hands slid down those muscular arms.
"Dylan, I'm not Radhe."
"I know... I could never get him to eat milsi stalks even though they are so good for him." Dylan leaned in and kissed him gently, first a gentle lick to get Raa to open his mouth. Dylan held him close as his lips traveled down his neck, sucking , nipping, biting.
A knock on the door. "Captain, You're needed on the bridge." Tyr's voice rang clear through the door.
They jumped back as if burned. "Coming, Tyr." Dylan turned and headed through a doorway, when he came back out he was shrugging into his normal red leather. "Coming, Raa?"
"Of course, Captain." *TYR!
* * * *
Rommie watched as Dylan and Raa left Dylan's quarters, frowning she entered his quarters.
Dylan strode down the corridor, eyes bright with restrained happiness. Grasped lightly in his left hand, the force lance hung loosely secure in his grasp. Beside him, Raa strode, stride for stride. Together they flowed into a matched step with all the precision of doing it for years. Together side by side they stepped onto the bridge.
* * *
Rommie stared around Dylan's living quarters. Drones 312, 314, clean up everything except the dining area. 313 come with me. Rommie walked over and examined the debris of the dinner. It was no different from any other dinner date that Dylan had had except usually those dinner dates were with Gaheris or Sarah. Examining the leftovers, she finally chose some half-eaten milsi stalks, the wineglasses, and the linen napkins. Silently directing 313 to gently store the samples, she turned and led the way out of the captain's quarter. A parting direction for the other two drones to finish cleaning and return to their alcoves, she led 313 to the BioSci lab.
* * *
"What is it, Tyr?" Dylan demanded, as Raa took his places at a station behind Tyr.
"On Screen now, Captain." Tyr replied.
Positioning himself in his normal point, he looked up as the star view disappeared and the startling blue face of an alien appeared.
Taking a moment, Dylan examined the face on the screen. Short blue fur covered the entire face, a small foxlike muzzle project from the center of the face and small, white, sharp teeth showed when the alien grinned. The alien in the front had it's hair dyed a light lavender reaching from the crown of it's head to it's nape. "Identify yourself or be destroyed."
"I am Captain Dylan Hunt of the Commonwealth Starship Andromeda Ascendant and you are the Valu."
That toothy mouth opened again, "Yes, Captain Hunt, welcome. We had to make sure it was you. When we contacted you earlier, a... Nietzschean answered."
"Yes, Tyr, my tactical officer."
"You have a Nietzschean as your Tactical Officer?" The Valu questioned.
"Yes, two Nietzscheans, one is my Tactical Officer, the other is my Navigator and Resource Officer." Dylan answered, his grip tightening on the forcelance.
"Well... we see, Captain, one moment please." The Valu turned to its crew. Soft growls whispered through the air. Finally a sharp bark ended the discussion and the Valu turned back. "You are trying to reestablish the Commonwealth, yes?"
"And this Second Commonwealth... would be, as the first, justice for all... including the Nietzscheans?"
"Of course. The Commonwealth always gave a second chance. In fact it was this forgiveness that startled the Nietzscheans into attacking. They didn't want the Magog to be allowed membership in the Commonwealth. However if we listen to their reasons and apply them to the Nietzscheans themselves, they not only wouldn't be allowed to join the Commonwealth but we would hunt them down. That goes against everything the Commonwealth ever stood for. When we reestablish the Commonwealth it will be justice for all. Nietzschean, Magog, Valu, Humans, Vedrans, Perseids, even Nightsiders. Justice, not vengeance, justice for all." Dylan stated.
"I see, Captain... We are the starship, Brkisom. On board is a delegation from the Valu, we would like to join the Second Commonwealth."
"Well... yeah... sure. Do you want to come over to the Andromeda?"
"We would be honored." The Valu bowed and the star view returned. Dylan turned towards Tyr, "You did good, Tyr."
* * *
Rommie looked at the results in amazement. "Rolf."
"Yes, Andromeda?" Rolf appeared on the main screen of the BioSci Lab.
"Gavain Raa is Gaheris Rhade."
* * *
"Raa, you have the bridge. Tyr, come with me?" Dylan turned and walked off expecting Tyr to follow him, "Since you were the first to talk to them, I thought you would like to meet them. You have enough time to get dressed. I'll meet you outside docking bay 12, ok?"
"Good. Personally I think an ivory shirt will bring out your eyes." Dylan said before he went off to shower and freshen up for the Valu's visit.
* * *
"Rolf, who would clone Gaheris Rhade? I know where they got the material. Every Nietzschean who devotes their life to living on a ship leaves some genetic material on a planet. Usually their home planet. And then it begs the question, why? Why did they clone... Gaheris? And why was he planted here?"
"I don't know, Andromeda but I do know we must just find a way to protect him."
* * *
Tyr turned as Dylan's footsteps came closer. He was dressed in dark brown leather pants, topped with a cream shirt, over it was his usual mail shirt. His forcelance hung from is belt. Dark leather half gloves covered his palms. His braids were held back with a cream leather tie.
"About time you got here, they're docking." Tyr pressed the doorplate. As he turned, Dylan saw Andromeda's emblem attached to the center of the leather hair tie.
"Well then, let's go." Dylan said. Walking up behind Tyr, he tapped Tyr on the shoulder. Tyr turned towards him. Dylan kissed him lightly, "Come on, Tactical Officer Anasazi." Taking his hand, Dylan walked forward just as the Valu opened their ship.
"Andromeda," Rolf called, "we may have already have some of the answers we seek. From these we can extrapolate the most likely answers to the questions without answers."
"Yes, Rommie. There are only three true ways to lie. One, you tell a lie that is so believable that it is believed. Two, Tell the truth in such an unbelievable way that the questioner automatically assumes it's a lie and acts as you with them to. Three, and this is the method I believe is in use now, tell several statements but make only one in maybe five a lie. If I tell you five statements, you most likely won't check all five you will check statement 1, 3, and 4. But it is the second statement that is a lie. So those five are given to you and you check that three are true, therefore most would extend truth to the other two statements."
"Yes, it is. We know that there is a Darwin's Planet, that they do specialize in genetics, that the planet is mostly desert. These can be verified using others resources than Raa. We know that there is a transport ship of Nietzschean origin called Rakshava. This was reported in the interstellar news. We know that they were supposed to go to a place called Haven."
"OK, so this is what we do know. What we don't know is... what sort of genetic work does Darwin's Planet do, not just some of it but all of it. We have no idea if we queried the planet for information on Gavain Raa, would they give us the truth or are they part of the cover."
"Indeed, but ask yourself this, Andromeda, what purpose would they have to send a clone to Dylan?" Rolf flashed the screen nect to him. "Let's list the most probable scenarios," Rolf started printing on the screen.
1. Raa does know his purpose and escaped to seek refuge on board.
2. Raa does know his purpose and is seeking to fulfill it.
3. Raa doesn't know his purpose and is being used as a pawn.
4. Raa doesn't know his purpose and it is actually a coincidence.
"Well number four, doesn't see likely. Yet, I have to give him the benefit of the doubt. Rolf, perhaps we need a different perspective on this. I don't know what to do, or even if we should tell Dylan."
"I understand Andromeda, and I suggest asking Rev Bem, as a priest he will be able to keep a secret."
"OK, Rolf." Andromeda said as she sent a message to Rev.
* * *
Raa stared out at the stars and the stars stared back at him with thousands of bright eyes shining. Striving to find the stillness inside himself, Raa listened to quiet humming of Andromeda working quietly. Behind him, the rustling of Rev Bem's robes came closer, the wet muffled sounds of his breathing came closer.
"I see that the Captain has left you in charge of the bridge while he greets the Valu." Rev said peaceably.
"What do you want, Bem?" Raa asked quietly.
"Merely to talk. I have noticed that you have been spending a lot of time with Dylan."
Raa turned from the icy stare of the stars to face the Magog, "And if I have?"
"I would ask you to be careful. Dylan... Captain Hunt has lost a lot. More than we notice at times, for even though in these times, we may lose our families, our ships, our homes. Dylan has lost his time. He is in a universe that is so very foreign, with peoples and cultures that have evolved, changed out of necessity and he has not. He is having a hard time adjusting to the fact that all he knew of peoples and cultures have changed."
"And the point?" Raa asked coldly.
"Merely that I know that he and Radhe were lovers. I see it in his face... the same glow that he has when talking about Sarah. I see it in the old files that show pictures of them together. He knew how to handle a relationship with a Nietzschean but that was three hundred years ago. In that time Nietzschean both as a society and as a people have changed. Accept that he is out of time, if you would pursue a relationship with him." Rev slipped his hands in his sleeves and turned away.
"Rev, could you come to the BioSci lab?" Andromeda's voice floated down from above.
"On my way." Rev turned back to Raa, "Well it was a pleasant talk. I will see you later, Raa." Rev Bem walked out of the room as Raa turned back to stare at the cold eyes of the stars.
* * *
"Damn Nietzscheans!" Harper said as he plotted yet an other attack on that infernal and most likely possessed relay that he had been working on for the past three hours.
"Hey, Harper, problems with our resident supermen or Rommie's relays?" Beka asked as she curled up into the accessway.
"Both. Hey Beka." Harper smiled at her as he went back to working on the hellish relay.
"What's wrong, Harper?"
"Nothing much... it's just that... Beka? Have you ever had trouble getting someone out of your head?" Harper asked, pushing his head into the opening.
"You mean, like you can't sit down to eat without wondering what it would be like if this person was to eat with you. Wondering what sort of conversation you would have? Would they tease you, would you play? What about going planetside, would they want to come with you? Where would you go? That's it?"
Harper pulled his head out of the access hatch and looked up at her, "Yeah, that's exactly it, Beka. I want him, and not just in bed, I want to just go to my, our, quarters and to talk and just be with him."
"So what's the problem?"
"Beka, I've never..."
"I never wanted a... man. I never felt like this."
"Harper, you are in love?"
"Don't say that. Please," Harper whimpered and banged his head into the wall behind him. "Be-ka. How did I fall in love with him? I can't be. I can't." Harper looked down and reached for a tool. Realizing he didn't have it, he waved Beka out of the accessway. Once outside he turned to her, "I'm not in love. People like me don't fall in love."
Turning, Harper walked down the hall. Beka watched him go. "Now, Harper are you in love with Dylan and are angry at Raa and Tyr for getting in your way or are you in love with Raa or Tyr and angry at Dylan getting in your way?" Beka bit her lips as her eyes lit up with a plan.
* * *
Trance hummed as she walked around the garden. *That Acathla tree is really wonderful. I wonder if we can get another.* Smiling she walked about the garden ruthlessly snipping off stems and pruning the plants. Her smile fit her barbed tail perfectly.
* * *
Dylan walked up to the ramp of the Valu ship, Brkisom. "Welcome aboard the Andromeda Ascendant. I hope for the time that you are here, you will enjoy your stay."
The lavender haired, Valu from the previous communication, smiled, "I am sure we shall, Captain. In honor of our races joining together to form the Second Commonwealth, we present to you this sapling. It is of the Acathla tree and is sacred to us."
"Thank you, this will be planted along with its older sister in a place of honor. In the very center of our hydroponics garden so that all who visit this ship and all who live aboard her may rejoice in this holy tree's beauty."
"Thank you, Captain. I am Ran't." The lavender haired Valu grinned. "My science officers, Tomoko and Shinya." He pointed to two Valu who's head fur was colored a gentle green. "And Navigator, Youme'x." A light pink Valu stepped up.
"Well, how would you like a tour before we eat?" Dylan asked, smiling, "I can show you where we will put the holy tree."
* * *
Rev entered the BioSci labs to see Andromeda talking to Rolf. A worried expression was on both their faces.
"Andromeda, did you wish to see me?"
"Rev, we have a problem."
Dylan smiled as Captain Ran't planted the new Acathla sapling beside the grown tree. Watching as the lavender-haired Valu finish, Dylan contacted Rommie. "Can you prepare a lunch or dinner for tomorrow?"
"Of course, Captain. I'm attempting to get Harper to stop fiddling with the relays and get some sleep. Perhaps after they leave, you can get him to rest."
"Good Rommie." Dylan looked over at Valu who seemed fascinated by Trance.
* * *
"And what species exactly is she?" Ran't stood as he brushed the dirt from his hand.
"We are not exactly sure." Tyr told him.
"She seems rather fond of this area. Her knowledge of plants is extensive."
"Yes." Tyr raised one eyebrow as he watched Trance. "She adores the hydroponic garden."
"Ahhh well, then you would call her your hydroponics officer?"
"Good, I'm sure Shinya would love to spend time with her. Do you believe that your captain would be agreeable with this?"
"I'm positive. He wishes for you to join the Second Commonwealth so he will naturally allow you to do almost anything."
"Good. Very good." The Valu captain smiled, his small sharp white teeth shining under the artificial sunlight.
Tyr stopped smiling as he noted their sharpness and size, teeth of carnivores.
* * *
"Oh dear, I certainly don't know what to do, Andromeda. Perhaps you should tell Dylan." Rev Bem said as he walked across the lab.
"If I do... Wait. Rev Bem, the Captain asked me to tell everyone that he has invited the Valu for sinner tomorrow night." Andromeda told him briskly
"Thank you, Andromeda. As for your problem, I will think on it. Andromeda, Rolf."
* * *
"Harper." Rommie voice floated out from above, "The captain has decided to have a dinner on board for the Valu tomorrow at 1900."
"K, Rommie." Harper's voice was muffled due to his head being wedge inside another accessway.
"That means I want you ready at 1830, Harper."
"Yeah, yeah, Rommie."
"Harper! I mean."
Sigh. Pulling his head out of the accessway, "Yes, Andromeda, I will be dressed and ready by 1830."
"Good, in that case you should go to bed now, so you are rested enough." The access hatch closed by itself.
Great, now Rommie is sending me to bed. Oh well, shrugging he picked up his gear and headed off to his quarters, *Wonder who will show up in my dreams tonight?*
* * *
Beka stepped on the bridge and headed over to the captain's chair. "Hey, did Rommie tell you about the dinner tomorrow? It's to welcome the Valu into the new Commonwealth. 1900."
"Thank you, Beka. The bridge is yours." Raa stood up and after switching the visual pickup to the systems printout, left. He didn't look back.
* * *
*Tomorrow night. Tomorrow night, I will get a chance to warn that vile Nietzschean away from Dylan. Those murderers. Supermen, they call themselves. Kludge, scum, they call anyone who isn't them. SUPERMEN! They are nothing but barbarians. 'I'm Tyr Anasazi, of the Kodiak Clan, Son of Victoria by Barbarossa.' You are nothing but dog not fit to feast with us. And Raa... I know who and what you are... Gaheris. Tomorrow you will both pay!*
* * *
Tyr entered his quarters, tired and sweaty. After the Valu delegation left, he went to the gym. He had to work off that kiss. *Damn Dylan, first he kisses me right before the Valu shows up, then during the entire tour, he just watched me. No matter what I did, he just watched me. I know that he wants me, I can smell it on him. Perhaps he would be a good lover, he is the captain of this ship, and alpha of this pride. I already told Raa that we would have to fight over him, but I wonder what Dylan would think about this? Does it matter?*
Smiling a smile of anticipated conquest, Tyr walked into his bedroom and undressed, turning he noticed a bundle on his bed. Opening it, he found a note:
I'm asking the others to wear high guard clothing for the dinner, if you don't want to, don't but I would appreciate it. Besides, I was right, you do look wonderful in cream.
Lifting it out, Tyr saw it was a cream leather uniform. Holding it in front of him, he walked into the bathroom and stared at his reflection in the mirror. *I do look good.*
* * *
1815, Dylan's Quarters.
Raa stood in front of the portrait. Radhe stared out and above him, the force lance held in his hands pointed straight at Raa. *Radhe, what would you do if you were here? I know I'm you in a way but every time I see him look at me in a happy way, he's thinking about you. I know it. I have my order, prevent Dylan Hunt from stopping the Second Nietzschean Tactical Offensive. Destroy his faith in the Commonwealth. Destroy his ability to help it rise from the ashes. Destroy his dream.*
A hand wrapped itself around his shoulder, a thumb caresses his neck, "Ready, Gavain?"
"Yes, Dylan, just wondering."
'About Radhe? I notice, every time you come here, you stare at the painting as if he's some divine angel who will come down and give you guidance on whatever is troubling you. And something is, I can tell."
"Just wondering about life in general, don't worry Dylan. Now I do believe I came to pick you up for dinner with the Valu?" Raa smiled and walked over to open the door.
* * *
1930, Dining Room, Andromeda Ascendant
Dylan glanced at the two Nietzscheans sitting across from each other. If they glared at each other any harder, they might just manage to set off a fire. Tapping his glass, Dylan stood up. "A toast to new friends, new partners along our road to a new Commonwealth. To the Valu who asked to join us on this long journey. Thank you, friends." Small ringing chimes started as the occupants of the table gently knocked their crystal glasses together.
The clinking of metal on plates, quiet conversation, and light laughter took Dylan back to a time before the war, another diplomatic dinner. Dylan turned to see Raa just as he smiled and leaned over...
Radhe always did love to tell the story of how Dylan managed on his first day as Captain managed to spend an hour trying to find the conference room, instead of merely asking Andromeda. He grinned at his second in command. "Well, since you knew I was having trouble you could have helped."
"True, Captain, but think of all the wonderful places on the ship you discovered because you did get lost." Rhade cocked his head and smiled.
"Yes, but I could have been on time for the conference and then later explored the ship." Dylan countered.
"True. However next time you got lost, you did ask Andromeda for help so you must have learned something."
"I did. Never let your second officer cover for you if you are late. Somehow I don't think my officers were reassured when he told them, 'The captain's lost, when he swallows his pride and realize that he could simply ask Andromeda to guide him to this meeting, we will get down to business', were they, Radhe?"
"No, but it was truthful." Radhe smirked, slowly his smile faded, his eyes closed, a flash of light and he fell over backwards. The blood colored the uniform from cream to red. As the blood flowed over the deck, it turned gold. Feeling a presence behind him, Dylan turned to face Hephaestus.
"Captain?" It was obvious that this wasn't the first time that Ran't called his name.
"Yes. Sorry, I got lost in a memory for a bit." Dylan turned to face the Valu, his eyes catching Tyr looking at him worriedly. *I have to talk to Rolf about this. What if I get a flash back sometime when it's important?*
* * *
Dylan escorted the Valu to their guest quarters. Around him he could hear the various conversations of his crew. Beka was deep into a conversation with Navigator Youme'x and Raa about the most recent safe trade routes. Behind him Harper was talking to Engine Scientist Shinya about alternative parts that could possibly increase the relay speed on Andromeda. Tyr stood as usual on the sidelines staring at them. Trance was enthusiastically gesturing about her garden to Life Scientist Tomoko, her tail waving like a flag.
"Excuse me for a moment, Captain Ran't." Heading over to Tyr. "What's wrong, Tyr?"
"Well you look bad, you want me to get Trance to check you out?"
"No, I'm fine."
"If you're sure..." Dylan looked at Tyr with a question in his eyes. "OK, then. Later why don't you come over to my quarters?"
"Of course, Dylan." Tyr purred.
"Good." Dylan walked away feeling Raa's eyes on his back.
Approaching the guest quarters, the crew said their good nights to the Valu. A happy crew they turned around to find Tyr slumped agaisnt a wall, sweating and breathing rapidly.
"Tyr?!" Beka ran over to him. "Tyr, can you hear me?" Beka lightly slapped Tyr's face but got no response.
Raa raced over; "It's a poison or an allergic reaction. We don't get sick, not like this. And he was fine earlier. If he was sick I would have smelled it on him, no. This is something else."
Trance knelt down beside Raa, "You can smell when someone gets sick?"
"Yeah, everyone has their own smell. When you get sick, doesn't matter if you aren't showing it yet, we can smell it. After all we are bioengineered. I smelt something odd on Tyr about an hour ago but I figured it was just something like a cold or some mild allergy, our nanobots will usually handle that." Raa picked up Tyr. "Let's get him to medbay and find out what's wrong with him."
* * *
"Well, it's definitely a poison but I'm not sure what it is. I'm gonna download some more information. Sorry, Dylan." Trance said after scanning Tyr. Brushing Dylan aside, she headed to Raa. "Are you ok?"
"Not really. I'm dizzy, sweating, and I've got a little fever." Raa climbed onto of another bed. "I don't think I'm ok." Raa said as he slumped over and started to slither off the bed. Harper caught him and laid him out.
"Captain, I don't think this," Harper waved his hand at the two supine Nietzscheans, "is a coincidence. Both of them at once? I don't think so." So saying he moved out of Trance's way as she scanned Raa.
"Niether do I, Harper."
Trance walked over, "Well it is, cause Tyr is poisoned but Raa is having an allergic reaction. I had Andromeda run the foreign substance against what we had at dinner since that's the most probable cause. She came up with something at dinner, it's a pepper."
"A Shonan Pepper?"
"Yes! How did you guess?" Trance said excitedly.
"Well he looks so much like Radhe, I figured he's probably related. Allergies do tend to run in families. A simple dose of Kerophine at 200 cc for every 100 lbs, should do it. Radhe had to take half that before eating the peppers." Dylan squeezed Raa's hand.
"Wow. Now we have to find out how to fix Tyr."
* * *
An hour later, Trance and Andromeda still have not located the poison. Sitting in his quarters, Dylan mulled over what he had just read. Strange, he has run the DNA test to see how much of his old friend still remained in his bloodline... strange how this was the second request... strange as to why someone would want to clone his second in command. So many strange things to think about. Such as how he overheard Tyr and Raa discussing who he would end up with as a lover? How Raa is Radhe? How Tyr fell ill with a poison? So many strange things. The sound of an inquiring beep brought his eyes from the unchanging starscape. "Enter."
"About Raa... Rolf and I have uncovered something intruiguing about him."
"You mean like the fact that he a clone of Gaheris? Yes, I know. But what I don't know is why *you* didn't tell ME! Get out Andromeda, now." Andromeda retreated. "Privacy lock, Captain Dylan Hunt, High Guard, Alpha Rem 9456 upslash null null null downslash omega 35." Dylan turned towards the stars again, holding the report in his lap. *Why 'Heris?*
Trance stared at the screen, the latest readout made no sense, they didnít match any poisons known in Andromedaís database. It was enough to send her tail lashing.
Shinya entered the room quietly, apparently something was bothering the lavender one. Approaching steathily, Shinya leaned over and asked, "Is something the matter, Trance?"
"OH! Shinya, yeah. Tyrís been poisoned but by what we donít know. The poison doesnít match anything in Rommieís database. I downloaded more medical info from a nearby sat but it doesnít recognize it either. And Tyrís getting worse. If I donít find the agent, heíll die."
"I see. Well perhaps, I can help. Most poisons are made from plants and my favorite study is that of rare plants. Would you mind some help?" Shinya offered.
"NO. It would be wonderful." Trance got up and turned the monitor towards Shinya. "Iíve never seen these readings before."
"Strange they look vaguely familiar." Shinya muttered.
* * *
Dylan raised his head from the window and walked into the bathroom. *Maybe itís wrong, maybe Andromeda and Rolf are wrong. Who... would want to create a clone of Radhe and why? Does he know? Is he that good a liar? For a while I was afraid that I wasnít falling in love with him but rather Radhe but he is Radhe but heís not. Heís Radhe in his walk, talk, word choice, even some of his tastes. Other things he eats what Radhe never would, heís not Radhe cause I killed Radhe. I shot him with my force lance. I toasted his heart. He was proud of me for surviving. I donít know if I can survive this. I donít know if I want to.*
* * *
Standing there watching Trance and the Valu Shinya walk down t he hall, he waited. Once they turned the corner, he slipped into medlab. Without turning on the lights he walked softly over to Tyrís bed. Lifting a chair and placing it beside Tyrís bed he watched Tyr.
Tyrís breathing was labored and slow. Sweat beaded his forehead but he was clammy to the touch. He reached out and took Tyrís hand in his, kissed Tyrís fingers.
"You have to wake up Tyr. You have to get better. Where are those nanos you boasted about? I need you. I love you." A light flashed on his wrist. "I have to go." He leaned over and kissed him. I love you, Tyr." Silently he slipped out of the medlab and continued on.
* * *
Shinya stopped in the hydroponics garden to study the holy trees, the old tree, the sapling. Every time Shinya had a problem, she meditated. The old and the young. No ripe ones. Concentrating, Shinya let the holy trees and their fruit enter her mind.
The trees merely floated, intertwined, caressed. Then they appeared in a mirror, the mirror doubled. One was at the beginning and from it a cord stretched, Tyr lay deathly pale along the cord. The other end was attached to the other mirror, with the old tree reflected in it.
Standing up, Shinya reached the older tree and plucked a leaf.
* * *
Dylan strode down the hall to medlab, entering he saw Trance nibbling her lipas she tried to figure out what was happening with Tyr. "Any news?" he asked?
"No, Iím worried, Captain."
"Worry no more, my dear Trance. I know whatís poisoning Tyr. We Valu used it on the Nietzscheans during the War. Itís usually harmless to Valu and most species but since the Nietzscheans are bioengineered, they tend to be more rather than less affected. We used this drug to wipe out three different invasions. Nietzscheans are rude, arrogant, stuck up but not stupid, they left us alone after that. Only thing is thing is, I made up a batch of antidote but in 300 years they may have made themselves immune to the antidote with their constant tinkering. We can only hope and wait."
"If this is poison your people developed why would I let you try the antidote?" Dylan asked.
"Easy, Tyr has been out for almost forty hours. It kills in little less than 44 hours. Do you want a live Nietzschean?"
"Yes. Where does the poison come from?" Trance asked.
"Well the poison and the antidote," Shinya replied as she lifted Tyr, "come from the same source, the Acathla tree. You see it has a narcotic affect that we used to use in religious ceremonies. We told the Nietzscheans that we had seen them coming in a vision and hail. Then we offered them The Drink Of Peace. Itís a euphemism for death, and they all drank it. Humans it makes sick, Nietzscheans it kills. And they fell for it three times." Shinya poured the antidote down Tyrís throat and sat down. "Now we wait."
Captain Ran't came in the medlab. "Captain, Trance, Shinya has just told me what has laid your warrior low. I can not think one of my crew would do this but I have started an investigation in case I know my crew less than I think I do. It will take a while for the antidote to be effective, perhaps in the meantime you would like to join me in our search?" The lavender haired Valu twitched nervously.
"I would." Walking over to Raa, "Get up, I know you aren't asleep. Tyr's down, Beka is on the bridge, Harper is fixing Rommie's system, Rev won't raise a lance to a fly, so you're it." Turning to the Valu Captain. "We will be right with you after Raa gets his lance."
"Of course, Captain." Ran't walked out the door and headed down to the boat bay.
"Raa, my quarters." Dylan turned and walked out, followed by a rapidly scurrying Raa.
"I thought he was asleep." Trance said in amazement as she watched her Captain stride out.
"Nope, Dylan always could tell when he was pretending to sleep." Rommie said absently, appearing next to Trance, "What *is* Harper doing?" She said before disappearing.
* * *
Dylan entered his quarters and walked over to a little side table, little to the left of the painting. "Do you want a stereo of the painting?"
"Do you want a stereo of the painting?" Dylan repeated slowly.
"Well, if I had one then I wouldn't have it as a reason to visit, now would I?"
"Raa, Tyr is dying, this is not a good time to flirt. Especially since there is no possibility of procreation. Here." Dylan tossed Raa a small closed cylinder, "I had Rommie program it for you. You need to open it to activate it."
"A force lance. Thank you." Raa mad the small twisting motion that opened the lance, it hummed and waited. "Now let's go check out the Valu. If any of them are responsible, we can't let them get away with killing or trying to kill a member of this crew."
* * *
Trance flinched as Tyr started thrashing on the bed.
He moved as if he was fighting something. Trance ran over and held him down as she tried to fasten the restraints but Tyr's movements were too quick and strong for her. Straddling him, she pushed his arms down and used her tail to close one restraint.
"Hey Tran... oh, I guess you're busy. Did Tyr wake up? I'll check back later. Bye now." Harper turned away and walked out the door he had just entered.
* * *
*No, I did not just see Trance molest my hope to be sometimes bed partner. That was just an illusion, I hope.* Harper continued down the hall, unaware that he was muttering aloud.
Beka stopped in front of him, "Harper. Harper. Seamus!"
"Oh, Beka, what's up?"
"Nothing much, just wondering if you thought about the conversation a couple days ago?"
"The one where you admitted to me that you are in love with Tyr but are stuck in denial."
"I am not stuck in denial! I know I'm... I never admitted that it was Tyr or that I was in love with him."
"Yeah, D. E. Nial. It's not just a planet in the Gypsis system anymore. Harper, if you want him, then you have to remember he's a Nietzschean. They respect fighting for your greater good. If you want him, FIGHT!"
"And what if the fight..."
"Dylan doesn't matter, he may be the Captain of the Andromeda, but we are not High Guard and he doesn't own you. Show Tyr there's an advantage to choosing you over Dylan. I don't tell you this much... but you are smart, funny, intelligent in your chosen field..." Beka smiled crookedly, "and you ever tell anyone I said this and I'll kill you."
"Yeah, ok, Boss. So what should I do?"
"Well, it's good you came to me. I have a plan." Beka put one arm around Harper's shoulder and led him down the hall."
* * *
I guess it's true. I mean, he just opened Rhade's force lance. Now all I need to know is why. Dylan walked down the hall to meet with Captain Ran't. Though his face was passive, inside himself a war raged.
*Prove that he is Rhade!*
*Easy done, He Opened Rhade's Lance!*
*Only the person with the right genetic code could open that lance.*
*You used Rhade's on the bridge during your fight.*
*Yeah cause you both got so sick of rolling out of bed and grabbing the wrong lance and getting shocked. After the first time it happened on the bridge, we programmed our lances to accept each other's genes. Only Rhade and I could open that lance. And I didn't.*
*Well then I guess I can't argue... he's Rhade. DAMN!*
* * *
Rommie stood at the entrance to the Valu ship. "Captain, I've studied Valu physiology and believe that I may have a way of determining if a Valu is lying."
"Great Rommie." Stopping at the ramp into the Valu ship, "Permission to board?"
"Permission is most assuredly granted Captain, to you and your crew forever." Ran't bowed deep.
"Thank you." Dylan led his crew up and into the dark void that led into the Valu ship.
* * *
Tyr ran down Andromeda's hall, for some reason, the light was green. He was hunting something. Something... that was hunting him to. He had to kill it, otherwise it would kill him and the rest of his Pride. He can't let it destroy his Pride. He was the only known survivor of the Kodiak Clan but now he has a new Clan, the Clan of Andromeda Ascendant. Soon, females would be attracted to this. He knew they would. He wouldn't let it kill his clan. Not this time NEVER AGAIN!
With a loud cry, Tyr entered the gym, *It is time to win!*
* * *
Trance sat watching Tyr. *I hope that antidote works. We are going to need you Tyr. I just know we will.* A rustling roused Trance from her thoughts. Tyr lay on the bed, thrashing. Whispers passed breathily through his lips. Trance leaned down to hear him.
"I am Tyr Anasazi of the Clan Andromeda Ascendant. I will not let you destroy my Pride. We will destroy you."
Smiling a very cunning smile, Trance leaned over and placed her fingertips on Tyr's temples, *That's right, Tyr. Fight them. Destroy them. You are Tyr Anasazi of the Clan Andromeda Ascendant. You must not let them destroy our Pride!*
*You must not let them destroy our Pride!*
Tyr heard the voice speak in his mind. It was the voice of his father, Barbarossa. It was the voice of his mother, Victoria. It was the voices of brothers, sister, aunts and uncles, cousins. It was the voices of the Kodiak. They started out a low murmur, slow and steady, they rose in strength and number until it was a great roar. It reverberated the walls of Tyrís mind. Slowly, almost unnoticeably at first, it started to get quieter. Every repeat just a little softer but under those roaring voices, several voices repeated the phrase, getting stronger as the Kodiak were getting weaker. Tyr turned around, watching all sides. From within the Kodiak came seven shapes. Vaguely humanoid, Tyr realized that the louder chant was coming from them. As they approached, he noticed that they had an aura about them. Each bipedal being was surrounded by a color. Red. Blue. Green. Orange. Yellow. Purple. White. They came closer. Their voices grew louder until the Kodiak were drowned out. One was short and stocky. Another had a tail. Three appeared to be females. Some were slender and short, other tall and slender.
"Who are you?"
"You know who we are, Tyr Anasazi of the Clan Andromeda Ascendant."
"I am Tyr Anasazi of the Kodiak, not the Andromeda Ascendant." Tyr shouted, backing up carefully he nonetheless stumbled and fell back.
A loud shattering sound resounded in Tyrís mind. Cracks appeared on the figures. The light green one moaned in fear. The white oneís cracked and whimpered. The red one suffered silently. The others projected various senses of hurt and fear.
The green one approached him carefully, "Tyr, Kodiak is dead. Do you not want the new Clan?"
"That doesnít matter."
"Yes it does. If you join this new clan, then it will be the start of something wondrous. This clan will if allowed bring back the Commonwealth but not as it was but as it should be. If they fail, then the many races of the galaxies will give up and allow a descent into barbarism that will make the Fall look like a mere stumble. Please, Tyr, they need you if you are to survive. We need you. I need you." Green looked down at Tyr and knelt down.
"Who are you?"
"Donít you know yet? Supermen?" the green being cocked his, Tyr definitely got a male feeling from that one, head and sent a wave of pleasure.
The red surrounded being leaned down. "Tyr. You know us donít you?" A shaft of red light stretched out above and below his hand. "You know who we are." Red reached out, took Greenís shoulder and yanked him back.
"Dylan! No!" Tyr surged up and grabbed Red. A surge of power went up and down his arms as he threw Red to the side. Snarling in anger over Red throwing Green, Tyr said, "Harper... Seamus, are you ok?"
* * *
Harper shook his head as he walked down the corridor to the Medbay. Beka apparently thought he should wine and dine Tyr. He didnít think the big guy was really into the romantic scene but hey it couldnít hurt. Harper whistled a tune as he entered the Medbay. "Hey Trance, what are you up to, tail girl?"
"Oh. Harper. Could you do me a favor? Shinya gave Tyr the antidote about two hours ago. It looks like itís working but I gotta go meet the captain at the Valu ship. Can you watch him, if anything flashes red or get really super high, call Rommie and sheíll get me. Ok? Bye." Trance ran out of the Medbay without looking back. *Sure hope Beka is right about this.*
* * *
Harper watched as the hyperactive purple girl bounced out of the Medbay. "Yeah, sure, why not?" Looking over at Tyr, he couldnít help but go over and pull the sheet down a bit. *Wonder if he likes snuggling and if I could convince him to let me try out that chest for a test drive?*
Tyr moved restlessly on the bed. Harper pulled the sheet up fast. "Sorry, didnít think you would get cold so fast." Pulling a chair up he sat beside Tyr, playing with his braids. "Maybe Iíll give you a shave. You are getting seriously shaggy." Harper reached for a bowl of water on a table next to the bed. Pulling a cloth out of the water, he wrung it out and wiped Tyrís face. "What are you thinking about?"
* * *
An hour later and Trance still had not come back. Harper decided to put his Tyr straring to use and pulled out a stylus and pad from one of thr drawers and started drawing Tyr. "You know you areally are a wonderful model, maybe itís because you canít move but you are seriously ummm pen-genic?"
Tyr stirred and murmured something.
"Something wrong?" Harper got up and sat on the bedís edge, leaning down to hear Tyr.
"Dylan! No!" Tyr surged upoff the bed.
*DYLAN! Always Dylan.* Even now, he cries out for Dylan. In sorrow for a man who could not see that Hunt was merely playing with him, Harper closed his eyes.
"Harper..." Tyr snarled as he moved restlessly.
*Not only is he dreaming of Dylan but he hates me.*
"Fine Tyr, I wonít bother you again. Have Dylan." Harper turned and ran to the door. Opening it, he almost collided with Rev Bem. "Hey Rev, I told trance I would watch Tyr but I forgot I had to do something. Watch him for me. Bye." Harper left Rev stunned.
* * *
Tyr opened his eyes to see Harper ducking out of the Medbay. *Harper. Seamus. Soon.*
"Any opinions Rommie?" Dylan asked after the last interviews.
"Yes, Captain, based on my research, I would have to say Science Officer Third Class Maíctor is lying." Rommie relied, looking not at her Captain but Captain Ranít.
"Very well, Andromeda." Beckoning a crewman, he sent the crewman to bring Maíctor to them. Turning to his allies, Ranít stared at them. "I truly hope you are wrong Andromeda but I fear you are not."
"If Rommie is right, Ranít, what will be his punishment?" Raa asked.
"Well that depends on his role and level of involvement in this crime."
"Well the most major charge is not the attempted murder of your friend, Tyr. Whoever committed this crime did so against the express wishes of our Council. That is treason. The fact that they are willing to sabotage the treaty, violate the bond given to you when you received our holy tree, to do so when the *Andromeda* has two of our holy trees, that they broke the Councilís edict, and that they have harmed a delegate of your ship, all are treasonous acts. For this there is only one punishment, Death. A traditional death, but only death. Their names shall never be immortalized in song or praise. Their families will never receive ship benefits. They will be a shameful blot on their families. Would that satisfy you, Raa? To know that if they have children, those children will be ashamed to tell people who their parent is? If they donít have children it will be rejoiced. If they made a contribution to the gene banks of our world, it will be left to spoil and be destroyed. Our children will learn and add another name to the Shameful List. A List that only exists so that all the children can learn what such deeds cost a Valu. A list where a person doesnít even have a name just a number describing the time and place that the incident took place. All good they will have done will be recorded in only one place, the Hall of the Shame. For what if later we learn that they did a shameful thing in order to do right, should we not then allow them to have what little honor is left to them, though it will never erase the shame. Shall this satisfy you, Raa?"
"Yes, exquisitely. Whereas Tyr and I are always in competition, we are still Nietzscheans. It is a punishment that we would not expect from others but it is very Nietzschean of you."
A knock on the door interrupted Ranít reply, "Come in Maíctor."
* * *
Harper flung himself on his bed and wiped the tears of frustration from his eyes. Closing his eyes, he waited for it to begin. He didnít have long to wait.
*Did you think that any Nietzschean... even those of a transport ship would want you? Much less, the last survivor of a great Pride like the Kodiak. Or did you think since he lost everything that he would lower his standards to include you?*
*Did you think that he could ever love any human? And if he... would he want one who is weak?*
*You barely survived the camps.*
*You fall ill from any illness that merely crosses your path.*
*The only thing you are good for is fixing computers.*
*You are a yard monkey and just as evolved as one... compared to him.*
*An engine dog... and of less use to him than one.*
*A pathetic waste of space.*
Curled up in bed with the voices running around his mind, Harper fell asleep.
* * *
Trance danced into the Medbay, "Hey Harper, glad... Rev?"
"Ahhh, Trance. Welcome back, Iím afraid Harper needed to do something. Our Tactical Officer is awake and I do believe your patient wishes to go."
"Yes, Red Bem. I would." Tyr sat up and nodded to Trance.
"Well, let me check." Trance stared at the dials. "I guess so."
"Good." Tyr got up and slipped on his leather pants.
"If anything feels wrong you gotta come back," Trance yelled through as Tyr walked out. Shrugging she turned to tell Rommie that Tyr was up and about.
Tyr headed down the hallway, pausing at the intersection; he turned left towards the crew quarters. *Strange. I connect Seamus with green, the color of new life to us.* Standing in front of Harperís quarters, he pressed for admittance. No answer. He tried again and again, then assumed that Harper must be asleep. Frowning, he wandered down the hall to his own quarters, wondering what Harper would consider romantic
* * *
"Maíctor, why did you lie?" Ranít asked quietly.
"Captain? Why are you accusing me of lying?" Maíctor asked.
"Because I believe you are. Tell me everything, for anyone who covers this up, or hides this from my eyes shall be placed on the Shameful List. Do you wish that to happen to you?"
Maíctor gulped, "Please, Captain, Youmeíx... said that it was the right thing to do. He said... that it would be honorable. All I had to do was mix a batch of Peace. He offered me... justice. Justice for Ban 12. I thought I was doing what was right. Sometimes the Council... will put out an edict saying one thing as a blind for something else. I thought I was doing right. I believed Youmeíx. Captain, I am loyal to my ship, to my family, to Valu."
"Yes I see, but your involvement in this can not go unpunished. You will serve onboard the *Andromeda Ascendant* as the Assistant Tactical Officer, subject to Tyrís whims and wishes and orders. Your Captain will be Dylan and your superior will be Tyr. You will transfer as soon as possible. You are dismissed to get ready." Turning to Dylan, he smiled. "Ask Tyr and the rest of your crew to meet us by an airlock. Preferably a trash chute."
"Ok." Dylan nodded at Rommie as she relayed the message through to the crew
* * *
Beka banged on the door again, "Get up, Harper! Dylan wants us out in the docking bay now!" A muffled crash in the room, told her she had finally woken Harper up. A rolling crash and things banging into the door, alerted her and she stepped back. The door opened with a rumpled and mussed Harper.
"What does his highness want now, Beka. I was in the middle of the most fantastic dream. A bunch of slim and pretty women all decked out in silks."
"I would think rather, Tyr, in harem boy pants, serving you fine chocolates."
"Tyr... nah. What does Dylan want?"
"Apparently, they found who tried to kill Tyr. I guess they want to hand him over to us. Come on." Beka turned, sure that the hints would have Harper following. *Oh yeah, Harper has it bad for Tyr.*
* * *
Docking bay 12
After all were assembled, Captain Ranít stood between two lines. On his left, the Valu Youmeíx, Shinya, Tomoko, and Maíctor. On his right stood the crew of the Andromeda.
"Today we lose two Science Officers. First, because of his being an accomplice to this crime, a crime of treason, a crime of murder, Science Officer Third Class, Maíctor is assigned to the Commonwealth Starship, Andromeda Ascendant. His Captain is Dylan Hunt; his superior is Tyr Anasazi of the Andromeda Ascendant. Give them ship-oath." Ranít stepped back.
Maíctor headed over to Dylan, kneeling he laid his hands in lap. "To my ship, I give life. My life. My childrenís life. To my ship, my home, I give faith. My faith. My childrenís faith. To my ship, my crewmates, I give honor. My honor. My childrenís honor. In turn, I accept this shipís life, I accept this homeís faith, I accept my crewmatesí honor. We are one, what is done to me, is done to you. What is done to you is done to all of this ship." Maíctor reached behind him and pulled out a small sharp knife, slicing his palm diagonally, he laid the palm onto the ship. "No more does Maíctor of *Brkisom* live but rather Maíctor of *Andromeda Ascendant*." Maíctor stood and walked to the end of the line and stood, head bowed.
"Maíctorís punishment is mild, for one reason. Maíctor believed Youmeíx. Youmeíx crafted a pretty and plausible lie. So to Youmeíx goes the traditional death. Have you any words?"
"It was justice! They destroyed Ban 12. It was only one of many places that suffered under them!"
"Just as they cannot hold a whole species hostage for what one does, we can not either. Come forth as you are adjudged guilty by me and the Council." Ranít nodded to his crew. As one they took three steps back.
"You will be added to the Shameful List. It is only there you will be remembered and not even with your name." Ranítís hand flashed out. The claws that people assumed were there when they saw the fox like Valu showed as Ranít struck. His claws ripped through the soft tissue of the throat and yanked once hard on the spinal cord, ripping it half out of Youmeíxís body. "Andromeda, that is a trash chute behind us, yes?"
Shinya and Tomoko picked up Youmeíxís body and cycled it out the chute. Just before it expelled, a keening sound came from inside the tube. The chute cycled before Rommie could stop it.
"Captain, Youmeíx was alive still." Rommie told Dylan.
"Of course he was, Dylan, Andromeda. He got a traditional death. No honor. No glory. No chance to fight. No chance to live. This is the price of treason. Did you like it, Raa, Anasazi?"
"It was almost Nietzschean," Raa said.
"Good." Ranít held his hand out, blood still dripping from the claws. Shinya came close and reaching for a bowl no one had noticed before, carefully cleaned off her Captainís claws.
Dylan Hunt stood on the bridge of the Andromeda Ascendant, his white diplomatic corp outfit shone in the strong light from above. Hair neatly in place, he turned just enough to illuminate his eyes, "I greet the Valu people, in the mane and spirit of the Commonwealth. I am pleased with your decision to join the Commonwealth reborn. I have to admit it will take time, it will be hard but together, we can see the beginning of the new Commonwealth. A Commonwealth where all the races in the galaxies have a voice. A Commonwealth that unites us all for one common goal. It is with great joy, I greet you cousins."
The light raised itís brilliance briefly then slowly faded out. Then the light flared up once more burning an image of Captain Hunt with is crew, dressed in cream leather, fanned out behind him and Andromedaís face superimposed over the entire scene. As one, each member of the crew raised their force lance. Tips glowed as the scene faded to dark.
* * *
Yes, very good Captain Hunt." The Valu Captain, Rantí, replied as he watched the preview of the missive they were taking to their people. "Thank you, Captain for including Maíctor as part of your crew for this presentation. Though his family and line, in fact, all of our people, will have to learn of this. Doing as you did showed your forgiveness and mercy. He will not be listed on the List of the Shamed but only because of you and your crew. Here he has a chance to redeem his honor and a place in our society. If he should die with you all the better. Now I must order the Brkisom to depart. My hope to see you and this crew once again." Ranít gestured for Dylan to go first, into the docking bay.
"Well Iím pleased to have you if we ever meet again. I enjoyed our meetings despite the incident," Dylan turned to the vulpine Captain, "Perhaps we could tell your people that we have had a snag in communications and you can stay a bit longer?"
"Captain, Iím shocked at your duplicity." Ranít opened his eyes wide, shock causing his jaw to drop. "Besides which I already thought of that, wonít work." Ranít grinned at Dylan laugh. "May Shaktiri guide your river among the stars." Turning, Ranít entered his ship.
* * *
Dylan walked up behind Maíctor on the bridge. "One day, Iím sure you can rejoin your people and the Brkisom."
"Captain, they are no longer my people. The Andromeda is my people. You are my people. Trance is my people. Even if Iím not sure what people she is. Tyr is my people. Even Rev Bem. Now as your security personnel donít you think you should tell me where we are going?"
"Yeah. Scavenger Space Station, Caligula."
Maíctor sighed, "Great, right next to the largest Nietzschean stronghold in this sector. Captain." Maíctor nodded and left the bridge.
Dylan watched him leave with a shake of the head. Striding down the ramp, Dylan slipped into the pilotís chair. Checking the plot he grabbed hold of the handles, "Everyone prepare for Slipstream, letís see if we can get there in two streams."
* * *
Raa watched the exchange silently, it was so obvious he couldnít believe he missed it. *Even though Maíctor was new to the crew, Dylan thought he saw sadness and tried to help him. The way to get to Dylan is to become not only one of the crew but to become friends with my Ďcrewmatesí. Very well letís see... Harper has been down lately.*
* * *
Tyr paced his room, soon they would be at Caligula Station, the one station where everything is for sale. The place to find anything rare. Something to find for Harper. "Rolf."
Rolfís hologramatic face flickered into view on the room screen. "Yes, Tyr?"
"You know about Hunt and Rhade, yes?"
"Good. As much as it galls me to ask this, I must know." Tyr took a deep breath, "How did Rhade get Hunt into his bed?"
"Well, Iím not sure I should tell you this. Why do you want to know?"
"Cause Hunt is a human and so is Harper. I want Harper. While in my coma I dreamed of him."
"Well Dylan is different from Harper. Whereas Dylan often did not require Ďproofsí of love. It would seem to me, that to show Seamus that you care for him, he would need these. Despite his arrogant and carefree outer shell he is very fragile inside. A wiry fragility that bends but does not break, that helped him survive the camps. If you would pursue a relationship with him, I would suggest you court him." Rolf answered
"Yes, it is an archaic term but the principle is simple. You must show him why it is better to be with you than anyone else. Show him you can provide for him. That you will take care of him when he is sick. That you will support him in what he chooses to do. That you do not put others before him. If you can do all these, I do believe that Seamus will fall in love with you as Dylan did Gaheris. Would you like some suggestions of what to do?"
"Why are you willing to help me so much, Rolf?" Tyr questioned the AI.
"Easy, I simply believe out of all of the people on board, you would fit Seamus best. You could help him. After all I am programmed to do what I believe is best for my crew. Now first thing, a small gift, perhaps some chocolate?"
Ah, so in his own way, Rolf is just as practical as I am. Perhaps he can help me win my Har... Seamus. With that thought Tyr settled down to discuss the future seduction of Seamus Harper.
* * *
In orbit around Caligula Station
Tyr stepped forward. "This station is safer than most scavenger stations, especially since they are on the main trade route of four large prides. Personal defense weapons are permitted. The levels of the station are color-coded. There are ten levels in each color. Do not go into areas Red, Yellow, Gray, or White. I doubt you will much want to go into Orange or Violet, as they are for non-oxygen breathers. Also just in case you get lost, look for people wearing black uniforms with communicators on the backs of their hands. The communicators should have a diamond pattern. If they donít, then run. They are most likely a slaver gang. Thatís it." Nodding once, Tyr stepped back.
Dylan stepped up and looked at his crew. "This time Beka and Rev Bem will be staying up here. Everyone else here," Dylan held out a small strip of plastic. "Iíve already traded some things with the station itself. These will allow you to buy things in the restaurants and shops. I have already divided what we got and everyone has the same. Use it. Enjoy it. Donít lose them. Letís go."
Raa turned to Harper who was standing next to him. "Ready?"
"Are you ok?" Raa turned worried eyes to Harper.
Harper looked up into concerned eyes, "Yeah, come on letís go before Dylan thinks to take this money back."
*Something is really wrong with him.*
* * *
On Caligula Station
Three hours. It took us only three hours to get everything. Am I good or what?! Naturally. Harper laughed as the crew strolled down the mall. Trance had gone somewhere else again. Waving to Dylan , Harper headed over to small store crammed into a corner. Riffling through the bins outside, Harper felt a tingle as he brushed past something. Reaching back for it, he pulled out a Sergiensky Manifold.
*Oh... wow. A Sergiensky Manifold. I have to have this.* Lowering his eyes and slackening his face, "Hey, how much is this?"
An insectoid came over, "Ahh that piece is 225 credits."
Harper looked at the credit slip, Ď185 creditsí, "Itís not worth that much." Harper laid it back down and walked away.
* * *
Tyr watched as Harper ran through the mall, finding new things, his face all aglow. He grinned as Harper pulled out some piece of junk out of a bin. He saw Harperís face fall as he realized that he couldnít afford it. As he watched Harper go back down towards the rest of the crew. Striding over, he shifted the large box under his arm and picked it up. "225 credits?"
The insectoid turned to Tyr, "For that? Well..."
"It is what you told the young man before me."
Tyr handed the insectoid clerk his credit slip, "After you process the sale, that credit slip should read 1432 credits."
"Sir, after taxes..."
"No, you will adjust the price so that the taxes are included in the 225." Tyr turned slightly and his spikes glimmered in the light.
"Yes, of course. Right now."
Tyr stood still, the flow of people parted around him. Hearing a familiar rumble behind him, Tyr glanced at a glass pane. It was Drakem, someone he had tried to avoid on this trip. Turning to face Drakem, "Drakem."
"Well Tyr Anasazi. Last I heard you worked for kludge on a garbage scow." Drakem attacked.
"I see your manners havenít improved."
The clerk came up with the part in his hand, a sour expression on his face. "Well you seem to have gotten the better deal, enjoy your part."
"This is what the kludge was looking at earlier. Was that kludge your Captain? Tell me Tyr does he make you serve him all the time?" Drakem laughed and poked his companions. "Tell me what was the name of your rustbusket again?"
Tyr smiled at them. *I wonder if he realizes what he just sold. I wonder how long it would take Drakem to scream.* A smile most people would tremble to see and Drakem, like the fool he was, ignored it. "The Andromeda Ascendant. Perhaps you have heard of it, it defeated Orca Pride.
A flash of pale blue brushed by Tyrís arm, Drakem grunted as he was forced up against the station wall. His feet dangled in the air. Maíctor held him against the wall, his knife gleaming a dull oily blackness in the light. The edge was pressed against the carotid. "What... did... you... say? Dare you to dishonor my ship, my crew?"
Drakem struggled. Tyr laughed, "I suggest you apologize to Maíctor. He hates it when people insult his ship."
"Tyr, Dylan asked me to tell you that he wants to lift ship in an hour and I was wondering if you had any packages that need to go back to the Maru right now?"
Maíctor looked at the Nietzschean, a swift knee into his groin and a quick movement of his fist and Drakem had bruised testicles and a broken nose. As Drakem gasped in pain, Maíctor hit him in the cheek with the handle of his knife, a broken cheek. "Very well, Tyr sir. Iíll deliver this to Trance and then be right back." Feeling the engine part in the bag, "Tyr?"
"Is this part a gift for Harper?"
"And if it is?"
"Well, if you intend to surprise him, wouldnít it be a good idea to put it in a box? Something so he doesnít know what it is until he opens it?"
Tyr glanced at the gasping Nietzschean, with satisfaction he noticed the other two with Drakem stood back. "Yes."
A young man standing next to the insectoid clerk smiled at the injured Nietzschean. "Hell since you beat the hell out of Drakem, Iíll make this gift so pretty, your friend wonít want to unwrap it. Figure of speech. Human?"
"What?" Tyr asked quizzically.
"Is your friend human? It matter as to the paper, I mean some are more pleasing to certain species." The young man replied.
Tyr looked around. A Nietzschean lay on the floor gasping, two more stood watching the power flow. The Valu was fascinated in watching the young human wrap a box in shining paper, and the insectoid clerk stood trying to sell his wares to the people surrounding him. A laugh bubbled out of him, loud and long. Maíctor turned and looked at him. Suddenly Maíctorís jaw dropped.
"Tyr, light bends which causes us to see different colors, and when you stand in front of a light, it bends about you almost give you a halo of color."
"Yes..." Tyr replied puzzled.
"I think I need to talk with Dylan." Maíctor stood up on his toes to see Dylan standing in the middle of the crowd, grinning.
Noticing Maíctor, Dylan headed over to him. Trance, Harper, and Andromeda followed.
"Andromeda, a while ago I entered a machine shop on board to discover an ancient human flight module, when I asked Harper where the idea to reconstruct such came from, he told me the story about the Perseid who transferred part of their great library to him, including proof." Maíctor stopped, his eyes bright, the rest of his body was slack.
"Maíctor, yes?" Waiting for a second, "Maíctor."
An old Valu with a white muzzle moved up next to Andromeda. "Please Miss donít disturb him. Heís a thinker, when heís finished heíll come out of it."
"A thinker, sir?" Andromeda asked.
"Yes, a late bloomer. I would say. Our Thinkers freeze and when they come out of it, they almost always have new ideas."
"I see, Mr..."
"No Mr., just Shíwm."
"Andromeda?" Maíctor asked.
The old Valu stepped up, "Maíctor, you said that what the Perseid transferred to Harper was proof. Proof of what?"
"That the Magog were not to blame for Brandenburg Tor or anywhere else, they were led by something else. Also itís partial proof that the Magog of then, were not normal, someone engineered them.
"Listen to me, Ma'ctor. I am Scientist Sh'wm. Explain your reasoning now."
"Well, sir. The Perseid was a member of the Great Library. He was senior researcher for the Special Collections Division of the All- Systems University. He downloaded some information through Harper's, our engineer, cerebral port. This was a massive download of wars; one of those clips was footage from Brandenburg Tor. It showed a vaguely upright figure. Four extremities and a head. It seemed to be more of darkness outlined by a bluish-violet light. It was directing the Magog. Sometimes the Magog would bring items to it and it would look at it then wave it away. It was calm, you get that impression.
"Next, the Magog make no sense. Every race says the same about them... they are ravenous beasts that kill and devour, violate and mutilate. We have a Magog on board the Andromeda Ascendant. He is a member of the People of the Way. After talking about this episode with Harper I went to talk with him. He told me that being on board the Andromeda was like placing a person in a banquet of their favorite food and then that person must deny himself the very thing they need to live even if it means starving to death. That piqued me. Nature doesn't create anything that can't be satisfied. If they were always like this... how did they evolve enough to get off their home planet? This hunger cannot be natural. Maybe it would be a trait among non-sentient races, but no matter what, the Magog are sentient.
"Now take in account that the very behavior that makes us say that they are brutal, psychopathic, who only kill and devour would mean something else. They shouldn't be alive. We hunt to eat, maybe not us specifically, perhaps you even breed your own food. But you breed them. The way the Magog killed and ravaged Bradenburg left no one alive. No breeding stock. What sentient would kill off all their food? Even if they incubate their eggs in other Magog. The more Magog you hatch the more have to feed the quicker the die off. So this trait does not fit with a space faring race.
"Also, because I am so curious about my new crew, I decided to watch the records starting from now and working back. I came upon your encounter with the Consensus of Parts, the lead interface, VX, mentioned the directing intelligences. VX said that when the time came they too would dismantle. HG says they never have. VX mentions that there are only a few of them. VX calls one by name, it calls the intelligence `Yellow'.
"I remember when reading an account of one of our warriors, that we rescued from a Magog attack, as a school assignment. He said that he wasn't sure if it was a dream or not but he swore that he saw a dark figure standing, edged in violet light. It lead the Magog on a search. As with Brandenburg Tor, the Magog kept bringing things back to the being and it looked at them. Soon after he was picked up.
"I saw the light bend around Tyr and realized. These being are probably very similar in whatever organic parts it does have but it probably uses mental abilities to form and move. In the clip, Purple threw off what looked like lightening. Mental energy is to some degree electric. Perhaps, since no two beings are ever exactly alike mentally, when they form their different mentalities bend the light and makes them appear different colors. This could also mean, since VX implied they would eventually split up, that they maybe compound beings. Entities with similar colors joined forces and so we may be looking at the max about 10 beings. We know of 7 colors in our spectrum but some see above and below. Also we didn't even notice their shape unless it was outlined by the light... so maybe we can't see some of them.
"This could mean we have hated the wrong people for a very long time. The Magog hunger is not natural. The Violet Being was seen controlling them. Someone once remarked that the Magog were the supreme bioweapon, what if that Being gene-engineered them for that express purpose. The Consensus preys on ships passing through its space, yet we have tentative proof that a being, perhaps the Yellow Being is controlling them. So that means if my theory is right then we have at least five other being: Red, Orange, Green, Blue, Indigo. Who knows who they control. Or what they will do to hide it."
Shaking his head, he pushed the last of his thoughts away.
* * *
Sh'wm turned to Andromeda, "Take him back to your ship and keep him warm, his system will go into shock within a half hour. Ma'ctor, I will report your findings to the Council. Thank you. It is disturbing but valuable."
"Umm... what finding's sir?"
"Ahh... I see. Ma'ctor, you are a Thinker, a very good one. Right now, you need to rest," with that the old Valu sent him on his way.
Concerned over Ma'ctor, the crew didn't see Tyr kneel down and pick up Harper's bag where he had dropped it, unnoticed.
* * *
Promising to rest, Ma'ctor watched Harper as he left Ma'ctor's quarters and headed to the machine shop. Waiting five minutes, Ma'ctor headed out. Slipping through the halls carefully, he knelt before Harper's door. Andromeda diverted part of her attention as she noticed Ma'ctor entering and placing the candy and gift on Harper's bed.
"I hope Harper likes them, if he doesn't poor Tyr will be so disappointed."
Moving quickly, he walked out the door and locked it yet again.
* * *
Walking back, he stopped by Tyr's room, pressing the call for entrance he waited. The door slid open and he entered. Tyr was sitting on his bed, shirt off and braids hanging over his shoulders. Their tips brushed his chocolate nipples.
"Did you place them in his quarters?"
"Yes, sir. As you wished."
"Good. Lay down, you need your rest." Tyr stood up and started stretching. He had to prepare for the hunt.
* * *
Harper came back in, whistling and bouncing. Throwing his overly loud shirt on the bed, he asked the computer for messages.
"Harper, I noticed you were a bit down lately, so how about going to the rec room, I studied up on old earth games, found one you might like, it's a Flight Simulator? Come. Be there at 1600. Raa."
Cool. Maybe... it'll help me forget about Tyr for a while. Flight Simulator, might be fun. Pulling his shirt off the bed, he noticed two boxes on his bed. One was wrapped in a red clear wrap; the other was wrapped in rather gaudy but bright paper. Sitting down he opened the red one first. Lifting the lid a fragrant, heady, and sweet smell floated out. He tore the top off. All various colors of chocolate, a guide in the top stated that there were twelve types of chocolate. Each type came in 10 varieties such as covering cherries, or nougat center, or even as a truffle. Harper sat back astonished. Picking up Maldavrian light chocolate with a peanut butter interior. He bit into the soft chocolate; the creme filling flowed down his throat. Ahhhh almost better than sex.
Mouth full of chocolate, he pulled the other box in his lap, fingers slippery with chocolate, he ripped it open. A Sergiensky Manifold. "Who..."
A chime beeped. Damn, it's 1545 now. Raa is expecting me. Picking up the boxes, he noticed a small card.
"Tonight, come to the garden. I shall be there Awaiting your presence
Tonight I shall prove to you That it is you I want and no one else Tonight do not fear
I will hold you Safe and warm Tonight, see me.
Who sent this to me? It wouldn't be Dylan, not his style. Tyr made it obvious that he wants Dylan. Trance is not interested in me that way, nor Rommie. Raa? Perhaps.
With a small smile on his face he got ready to play `Flight Simulator'.
* * *
"Are you sure he will be there?"
"No, I can't predict the future Tyr, but I did notice that he had plans to be there from 1715 to 1800. Tyr. He cares for you. I can tell when he looks at you but his eyes show you hurt him."
"Tyr." Rolf popped up on Tyr's view screen. "Some days ago when you were ill, Harper watched you for a while. You called out Dylan's name, and `No', in a terrified voice. He left thereafter."
"He thought Tyr was scared for Dylan?" Ma'ctor asked.
"I believe so. I also monitored his expression. I think he believes you to desire Dylan. After all, both you and Raa did at one time pursue Dylan."
"But it is Harper who I wish."
"Convince him of that. As an archaic poet of Earth once said, `Court him with fair grace and let him not think you fickle.' Make sure this is what you want. Don't change your mind."
"Ma'ctor, rest here if you wish. It is almost time for me to meet Harper."
* * *
Raa watched in amazement as Harper managed to kill all of the enemy fighters. "Played this before?"
"Nah, something similar. What time is it?" Harper asked.
"Ahh, 1725. Why? Got a date?"
"Yeah! By the way, did I remember to thank you for the presents?"
"You mean the simulator, not a problem."
"I meant the chocolate, Raa."
"Are you kidding, I would never give you chocolate. Dylan, Rommie, and Beka would kill me." He said, shuddering. "Yes, I am afraid of them Especially if they thought that I gave you choclate.
*Then who is it?*
* * *
Harper entered the garden. The smell was rich and earthy. Walking down the path, trailing fingers against the silky plants, he smiled. Coming to a clearing, a small white card lay,
I've been wondering if you would love me I was wondering if you thought I could love I was wondering if you would ever be my lover I was wondering if I could kiss you
Brushing a tear from his eyes, he heard a voice behind him. Reading the next lines.
"I want to caress your beautiful hair I want to hold your body close I love the way your mind leaps and bounds I love the way you survive
"It has been long, It has been hard, But I can make it all worth while
Chocolate hands caressed his shoulders, fingers pulled his shirt off his body as silken lips attached themselves to his neck, little nips went up his throat to his ear, warm syllables tickled his ear, "Let me prove, that I can be the best lover you can ever have. Let me prove to you that my heart beats for your pleasure. Let me show the joy I can bring. Let me protect you. Let me fight for you. Be mine. Let me hunt you. Let me earn your love."
Shuddering he swallowed, "Yes, Tyr."
Tyr caressed the man who made him feel fire. Kissing the silken pale throat, his tongue lapping the sweet taste of his Seamus. Tilting his head up Tyr whispered into his ear, "Harper, if you donít want to be mine, tell me now, or I wonít stop."
"What about... Dylan?" Harper shuddered as Tyrís hands caressed his nipples through his shirt.
"What about him?"
"I thought you and Raa... wanted him."
"I only wanted him because he was alpha or so I thought. Perhaps Rommie listens to him, perhaps he is captain of this ship, perhaps he is older than you. There is one thing he is not."
"An engineer, without you Rommie canít fly, canít do anything." Tyr kissed the flesh behind Harperís ear. Licking and nipping the sensitive flesh, he cupped Harperís balls in his hand.
Harper stood up and pushed Tyr back, "No, this is some kind of trick. Tyr this isnít you! You are not... some kind of romantic fool. You want something you manipulate to have it. You wanted Dylan, now youíve decided to give yo Dylan for me! Excuse me for being a bit incredulous. But somehow, I doubt it! This is some twisted game of yours and Iím not playing it." Harper turned and walked away.
Tyr looked at the young man walking away from him. Somewhere deep in his chest a rumbling began, it climbed steadily until the roar of a Kodiak Bear, the very totem of Tyrís people, rose out of throat. Leaping up into a crouch, Tyr sighted his prey. Now it was time for the take down.
* * *
Harper turned as a low, hard growl floated through the moist air of the garden. Looking back to where Tyr stood, Harper started as he noticed Tyr wasnít there. The shadows closed in on him. "Tyr what are you up?!" Harper backed up and kept turning, trying to keep Tyr from sneaking up on him. "Tyr?"
The door is over there, only about another what 10, 15 meters. I just have to avoid that crazy Nietzschean for a bit longer.
A muscled chest pushed into his back. Harsh breath filled his ears as he was pushed through the garden to the door.
* * *
"You are Mine, Harper. I am not romantic but I thought humans liked romance. I thought..." Tyr bit Harperís neck, "you would come to my bed willingly, so I would not have to hunt you down." Tyr grabbed Harper and flipped him around so they were face to face. "You are right, I do take whatís mine but if you fight me, if you hate me, then you will not be any good as a lover." Tyr jumped back and dropped Harper.
Without a look back, he walked out and left Harper in the dark garden.
* * *
Harper stumbled into his room and collapsed on his bed. Taking deep breaths he rolled over and stared at the ceiling, "What am I doing? First Iím complaining because he doesnít love me, now I chase him away. Fool!"
Did you think he would ever love you? This is just a plot. Heís using you to get to Dylan.
He said he asked for help. He wouldnít do that, if he didnít love you.
Ask Rolf, he said that he asked Rolf for help. Ask Rolf if he did. Rolf wonít lie.
Harper sat up, "Rolf!"
The viewscreen over the head of the bed flared to life. Rolf peered out from its depths. His electronic eyes focused on Harperís back. "Yes, Harper?" he asked, his careful tone modulated to promote the release of stress.
"I had a weird talk with Tyr today. He was trying something. I canít trust him. He pursued Dylan for over a month, now all of sudden, he loves me? No. He bought me chocolate. Even Raa wonít buy me chocolate. He claims that Dylan, Beka, and Trance will kill him. Does that mean Tyrís not afraid of them? He got me the Sergeinsky Manifold. Do you know what that is?"
"No, Harper, I donít."
"Itís one of two keys to actually making a primitive slipstream drive. Without this and a Meyer-Riddick Converser, it wonít happen. The rest of the engine exists to support these two parts. Later they invented the Lasky Intergrator which does the same job as the two of them."
"I see, so those are no longer in use?" Rolf asked.
"Right, In fact since the Lasky came in, they threw out the M-R and the Sergiensky."
"This is important to you?"
"Yeah, Itís a project Iím working on. Rommie has a good system but sometimes the old ways are good."
"Yes, the old ways. The old ways of electronics, of personal relationships."
"Did you tell Tyr to buy this stuff for me?" Harper asked, staring at the wall in front of him.
"Not exactly, Tyr wished to know how one went about... um... seducing a human that he desires greatly, to share his bed."
"He asked you how to get Dylan?"
*Told You, He Loves You.*
"What have I done. Rolf what do you know about Nietzscheans?" Harper turned around to face Rolf, his eyes glistening.
"Not much, but I know enough about Tyr."
* * *
Rolf walked down the corridor of Rommieís Virtual Reality Self. He smiled as Rommie flashed into life next to him. "Andromeda, these humans."
"I know. I still donít know what to do with Dylan and Raa. I mean Dylan knows heís Rhade but since then has been totally cold to him, no dating. Nothing." Andromeda stamped her foot, frustrated.
"Well, if Harper listens to me, then soon, he and Tyr will be happy soon."
"Wonderful, I guess you won the bet. Now help me with Dylan and Rhade." Andromeda said, linking arms with Rolf.
"Well, Iíd be delighted to Andromeda."
* * *
Harper sat on metal work in his machine shop. It wasnít really his, belonged to Rommie but it might as well be his. A molecular wrench dangled from his fingers. Every so often he would twitch his fingers and they would swing the wrench. Here among the lifeless machines, he could just be Harper. What would Rolf say if he told him that?
"Well, Tyr would let you be just Harper as well or as he told you, it wouldnít be any good. We would all let you be just Harper. We also know that to be Just Harper, you would be happiest with machines, so we allow you access to machines whenever you want. Is that expecting something of you? Or is it expecting you to be you?
Damn, he owed Tyr an apology.
Behind him, the door slid open.
* * *
Maíctor stood, rather leaned, against the wall opposite the door to the machine shop. Rommie said Harper was in there, Tyr was in the gym working out. That was wrong. Tyr should be in bed, with Harper. Doing things that would Maíctor blush. Taking a deep breath, he stood and raised on hand to pound on the door.
"What are you doing?"
* * *
Trance watched Maíctor as he stepped to the door and back, it really was interesting but Maíctor had been up to this for an hour and it was getting boring. Tail waving, she walked up next to him, "What are you doing?"
It really was funny how Maíctor jumped back. "Oh, Trance. Well, you see ummm... Tyr... is ahh... well Tyr is interested om Harper."
"I know, but last time we locked Harper in a room with Tyr, he ducked out and got Rev to take his place. Doesnít he like Tyr?" Trance asked, brightly.
"Well, I donít really know, but he came to meet Tyr in the garden last night. He did something to Tyr, cause when Tyr came back to his room, he tried to trash it, thatís what woke me. And then..." Maíctor answered, leaning agaisnt the wall as he was still unsteady on his feet.
"Woke you? You were sleeping in Tyrís quarters?"
"Well, yes. I mean, I did do the dishonor to him. I am assigned to him personally, then to this crew, then to this ship. Since my main duty is to Tyr that means Iím his responsibility, itís not a hard one. Especially since his department consists of two people. Me and him, and at that we are twice the size of any other department too."
"But why were you sleeping in Tyrís quarters?" Trance asked again
"Because I am his responsibility. I owe him. So last afternoon after we got back, I shook him off and took the presents he bought for Tyr. Rolf caught me and told me to add a card with a poem, so I did. And it told Harper to meet his gifter in the garden at 1730."
"That was sweet."
"Yeah, well I got back and Tyr acted like he knew what I was up to all the time, he told me to sleep in his bed, that way he would be able to keep an eye on me. Thatís not important! What is what did Harper do to make Tyr go ballistic!"
"Letís ask him." Trance leaned over and opened the door.
* * *
Inside the machine shop, Harper was flying around. "Rommie, what types of leather you got. Has to be soft, smooth, thinking black but first tell me what you got and what colors."
"Any leather, any color, I either have or can make. If you really want, I can produce some nanites. We simply saturate the leather with the nanites, and they can change it to any color they want."
"Yeah, can you start making them Rommie, I need enough to make a neck band of about 1/8 of an inch thick, an inch high and able to reach around my neck, I need some sort of clasp, need to lie flat and be strong, nothing like the stik that you use to close uniforms, those are too easy to open. And perhaps maybe we can use a lock, yeah, but it would have to look like something else. Maybe it can look like a pendant, maybe a bear of some kind? And oh yeah two arm bands, same material, size ya know, just shorter for arms but those donít have to have a lock, just make them circular. And can you synch the nanites so they will be the same color?
"HARPER!" Maíctor called out over Harperís babbling.
"Hey, yeah, what ya need, Trance, Maíctor?"
"I wish to ask you something, Harper."
"What did you do to Tyr? Last night after I got back, I almost passed out, Tyr put me in his bed so I couldnít sneak away. I wake up because heís almost destroying his quarters, with a growl he ordered me to stay in the bed, that I was off today and left. To work out in the Gym. Did you deny him? I smell your arousal when youíre around him. He desires you. Do you know he has one of your shirts?"
"No, I didnít. And it was a mistake. Get out, I got work to do. Do me a favor and keep Tyr out of his quarters for the next 3 hours. Thanks" Harper ducked around Maíctor.
Maíctor grabbed his arm. "Are you going to hurt Tyr again?"
"No, Iím gonna make it right."
"Then I shall. Trance come with me, I have become bored with being confined to bed, and as my superior, my crewmate, and my friend is in severe emotional distress, I must counsel him. We must go to the gym and entertain him with athletic prowess."
"Ok." Trance paused for a beat, "whatís Ďprowessí?"
* * *
Was this the way Maíctor honored obedience? First he was out of bed despite orders to have him stay there, then he wanders into the gym dragging Trance. Three hours of him dodging questions just to get out of him, that he just couldnít stay in the bed, there was something in it. What could be in it? Andromeda hadnít reported any infestations. Angrily Tyr stomped down the hall to his quarters. Slamming the door button, it opened. Inside the lights were off, four candles glowed in the dark on the floor near each corner of the bed.
On the bed, his hair washed and just the faintest hint of vanilla drifting on the air. His hair falling in long slightly curly waves about his face. His head bowed, the candlelight glowed off his oiled skin. His entire body gleamed and shone, his skin translucent as porcelain. His hair glowed like Rommieís trim. Tyrís eyes were drawn to the soft black collar around his throat, the similar bands around his wrist. Kneeling on the bed, his hands clasped together in his lap, was Harper.
"Harper." Tyr crossed the room and reached out to Harperís cheek. Pulling his hand back, his sniffed the fingertips. Vanilla.
Harper raised his head a little, just enough for Tyr to see a pendant on the collar, a small silver bear.
"Harper. Are you sure? Once I take you, I never plan to let you go."
Harper raised his eyes to Tyr. "Iím scared. Will it hurt?"
"Yes, a lot but I can and will make it easier for you." Tyr sat down and pulled Harper into his arms. "Lay down on your stomach." Harper turned around and lay down, pillowing his head on the silken oiled arms. Tyr got up and noticed a small black leather pouch on the upper corner of the bed, opening it, he pulled out several long lengths of black leather. Smiling, he lay them down in loops by Harperís elbow, where he could see them. Next out was a covering for a fingertip, with little barbs. Laying that on the bed, he pulled out something smooth, cylindrical. A tube full of oil, popping the top, Tyr sniffed it. Vanilla. Grinning, he scooted down towards the end of the bed.
"Relax, or it will hurt more." Tyr rubbed the small of his back. "I wonder, if this skin of yours bruises easily, then I could have you marked every night. I will bite this soft flesh. Will you like it? Being the lover of Nietzschean is hard for humans, we love to proclaim our ownership of such beauty. But black collars are for those who are stained on their soles, not you, My Harper. We will have to get you a new collar."
"Rommie and I impregnated the leather with nanites, they are synched to the ones in the headband, so you can change them to any color you want but Tyr... Iím not pure." Harper flinched as Tyrís oil slicked finger slipped between his cheeks.
"No you arenít but your soul is not stained, otherwise you couldnít love as you do. You wouldnít love me." Tyr said, leaning over to bite at the small of his back, his finger pressing gently pass the tightness.
"At the camps..." Harper flinches as Tyr bites hard right above the curve to his buttocks.
"Nothing matters before you offering yourself to me. Come, relax." Tyr pressed in until his finger sunk in to the second knuckle, "Breathe. I think we should get you a tattoo. Do you think Andromeda would do it for me? Mark you with a permanent mark of mine? Make it so no one else can dare to claim you?" As Harper breathed out, he rammed the finger in. "Small breaths, my cock is a lot bigger than this. I want you to bleed but I wonít rip you up. Breathe!"
Licking down Harperís left ass cheek, he bit it, leaving a clear impression of his teeth. Sitting up he reached for the oil, pouring a little in his crease, Tyr started to work the next finger in. Slowly, he inched it in, delighted at Harperís little gasps, "Soon, Mine, it will feel wonderful." Impatiently, Tyr pumped his fingers faster and faster.
"Iím glad you chose a collar, Harper," Tyr leaned up to lick the little tears on Harperís lashes. "I wasnít sure what Humans thought about it, but it looks stunning on you. Out there they will only see Harper, an engineer who loves a Nietzschean. For some reason, a human has fallen for one of us. They donít know how I make you feel. They wonít know what I make you feel. And you shall never let them know." Tyr bit his ear, gently pushing a third finger into Tyr gently. "What we do here is simply for us. I wonít share you with others."
Harper trembled. Tyr looked at the slim young man on his bed, "Our quarters, our bed. You havenít said much, Harper."
"I didnít just spend time in the machine creating the leathers, Tyr. I talked to Rolf. He told me that you were trying to get me to fall in love with you in the human way, so I decided to answer you in the Nietzschean way. By submitting. Tyr all my life, I had to look out for me and only me. There was no one to hold me when it got bad. The Nightmares. As your mate, you would be required to defend me, keep me safe. You would be required to hold everything I hold dear, to your heart. Your very oath demanded it. The fact you are a Nietzschean demanded it. Humans have no status in your world unless they are owned, loved, mated with a Nietzschean.
"I found this out from Rolf. I wondered how he knew when last time I checked the database it didnít have that much information, he told me that you told him and that you also told him that it was Ok to tell me. I asked Raa cause I couldnít believe it. You offered it to me, knowing I could demand anything of you. That is love, Tyr.
"Own me, claim me, when we meet up other Nietzscheans I want them to see me as yours. I want to glow with your love. I want them to look at you, glowing cause you know I love you. I want them to wonder how this puny human got a Nietzschean god like you. I will be yours, you will be mine." Harper leaned up and licked Tyrís lips.
Pulling his fingers out of Harperís ass, he growled. "Enough!"
Flipping Harper over, Tyr stood up. He dragged his mail shirt over his cut chest, the silver rings rippling in the darkness. Tossing it on the floor, he peeled his leather pants down. His cock, long and the same chocolate cream as his body, stood jutting out from his body. The head of his cock, red and hard, dripped with a clear cream. Eyes burning, he poured the oil over his cock. Chocolate hands carefully smoothed the oil over his cock.
"Donít worry, Mine." Tyr climbed on the bed and knelt, lifting Harperís legs up, he pulled Harper down until his cock just touched, Harperís ass. "Donít tense."
One hand covering Harperís heart, the other hand on his hip, Tyr pulled Harper onto his cock. Slowly, steadily he pushed his cock past the tight inner ring, into the warm depths of his chosen mate. Already he could feel the liquid warmth inside his mate.
"Tyr... it hurts!"
"Only for a little while." Tyr leaned over and took Harperís lips, tongue dancing over Harperís teeth, he pressed in harder. Along his cock, he felt a warmth trickle down the side. He knew it was blood. His mateís, his loveís, his Seamusí virgin blood. He pumped in harder and faster, Harperís tears wet Tyrís face. Slowly Harperís grunts turned to whimpers, slowly he started responding.
Pulling away from Tyrís mouth, Harper pushed back and down, straight onto Tyrís cock. "Tyr, more please. Tyr..." Harper wrapped his arms around Tyrís neck and pulled himself up. Licking Tyrís ear, he bit down hard. A trickle of liquid filled his mouth. "Mine, Tyr. Iím gonna mark you too, for once in my life, I will own something that is totally mine. That something is you."
Digging his hands into Tyrís back, he brought his bloody mouth to Tyrís. Harper flicked his bloody tongue over Tyrís lips. He whispered kisses over Tyrís face, he moved his hands down Tyrís neck, his fingers ghosting over Tyrís soft flesh. Sniffing the dark, sweet, musky sweat scent of his lover, kissing Tyrís eyes closed, Harper whispered, "I love you."
Harperís body snapped taut and his back arced as waves of pleasure and joy filled him. Like the waves that crash upon the shore, the waves that Harper loves so much, the feeling crashed into him, each retreat washing away more and more of Harperís resistance. Each time the waves of pleasure pulled back, Harper felt more of himself get lost in the sea of pleasure. Suddenly Tyrís eyes opened. The smooth brown eyes stared into Harperís cool ones. An intense feeling as if his heart was about the exploded and darkness fell.
* * *
Tyr stared down at the sweat slicked young man, his body was covered in his own come. Pulling his cock from his loverís passage, Tyr noticed the blood still trickling. Touching his fingertip to it, he concentrated on itís rich red color, already darkening in the air. Making a decision, Tyr stood up and walked over to his closet. Kneeling down, he pulled out a box made of blue wood. It was light blur, the color of a planetary sky. Tyrís father has told him of places with skies like this. It was the same color as the sky of the planet of his birth. Inside was a small choker, that looked to be made of glass but was clearer, stronger. It was like a glass tube curled around into a choker, the lock was concealed in a small glass kodiak bear. Tyr turned the bear around in his hand, using one sharp nail, he opened a compartment right over where the bearís heart would be. Carrying it over to His Seamus, he leaned over, kissing Seamusí stomach. Outside he can be Harper, in here Tyr would never call him anything but Seamus. It was his own.
Laying the cold choker down on the bed, Tyr walked to the bathroom. Stopping on the way to send a message, he thought about the young man in his bed, sweaty, covered in come, and all his. Walking back with a bowl of warm water and damp towel, he smiled as his Seamus turned over. Kneeling down, Tyr feels for the blue wood box, inside is small thing almost scalpel. Itís has one end thatís rounded but the other is pointed. Pressing on the pointed end, the round end bows and creates a tiny scoop. Scooping up a few drops of his Seamusí virgin blood, he carefully fills the compartment of the heart of the bear. Dipping the implement into the warm water, Tyr rubs it against his chest to dry. Slashing the sharp point against his chest, he took the drop of blood and added it to the heart of the bear. Sliding up to Seamusí neck, Tyr gently unwrapped the black leather and lifted his mate gently. Trying not to wake him, he slipped the warm choker around his belovedís neck.
Sighing, he slipped out from behind his lover, to put up the box and itís tool. Seamus stirred, his lids lifting, a small sliver of his blue eyes glimmering.
"Itís from my father, his father had it made for his beloved. My Grandfather mated for the improvement of the species but he loved a young man. The lock is in the bear. Rest. I will clean you." Tyr pushed his Seamus down and wrung out the towel, with slow long strokes he cleaned his claimed mate of semen and sweat.
Seamus arched his back and opened his legs, "Tyr..."
"No, you need to sleep." So saying Tyr slipped under Seamus. Rolling him on top, Tyr pulled up the sheet and stroked his loverís hair until Seamusí breathing slowed.
* * *
Rolf hooked arms with Rommie in her VR world. "My boys are happy. When they wake, Tyr will find a small jar of salve to soothe Harperís soreness."
"My boys are still fighting. Dylan is being almost cruel." Andromeda pointed out
"Heís pouting, he feels betrayed." Rolf stated.
"Yeah but what am I to do with a pouting Captain?" Rommie asked.
"Get him laid, which is what we plan to do Andromeda."
* * *
Raa stared at the message:
*Dylan is yours. Someone else wears my collar.
Dylan knows. Talk to him. Tell him why.*
Thinking back to how cold Dylan has been lately, Raa decides itís time to talk.
Raa walked onto the bridge, head down, mind whirling furiously. Eyes flicker up quickly to locate Dylan. There in the pilotís chair as usual. Forcing his lips into a tight smile, he approached Dylan. *He looks good, as usual. That leather leaves very little to my imagination. But I could do with some visuals indeed.* "Captain, may I talk to you in private?"
"We can talk here, Raa," Dylan looked up at him, "Only Revís here and I doubt heíll listen in."
"I donít doubt Revís integrity but it is a personal matter that I have to discuss with you." *Damn his arrogance! Whatís the matter with him?*
"It canít be a personal matter, Raa. Because as far as the law goes in this day, clones arenít persons. They canít have personal matters." Dylan looked at Raa, his eyes glinting like ice chips.
Raa blanched, nostrils flaring, lips stretched into a thin smile. Pulling his lips back from his teeth, he spoke through gritted teeth, "Thatís part of what I have to speak to you about. Now stop acting like a spoiled brat and get over it! Listen to me cause if you donít, the Andromeda will be destroyed." Raa leaned back and stared at Dylan.
Unnoticed by either of them, Rev left the bridge.
* * *
"I believe Raa is finally going to tell Dylan what he is, who he is."
"Oh dear. I have to talk to Rolf... I wonder if Harper can make Rolf flesh so that we can have him in two places at once."
"Yes, it would help."
* * *
"Trance something is up with Dylan, Raa, Harper, and Tyr." Beka complained as she walked into the garden
"Yes, I know. I hope Tyr convinced Harper to mate with him though. That would take care of one problem." Trance replied as she looked at a flowering plant, turning it around she snipped off a small stem.
"What? Tyr and Harper?" Beka shook her head.
"Really? Our Nietzschean friend is in love with Harper?"
"Well he seems so."
"Beka. Donít do anything to them."
"Would I do that?" Beka asked artfully as she walked around. "What else do you know?"
"Many things." Trance chirped, her purple tail swinging around. "Humans and most life are made of carbon though some life is made of silicon. Also..."
"No, Trance. I mean about whatís happening in the ship."
"Oh... well," Trance looked up at Beka. "Ummm, Raaís a clone sent to disrupt Dylan from reestablishing the Commonwealth, I think. But heís definitely a clone."
"Oh." Rommie said.
* * *
Rommie entered the garden in time to hear the last exchange between Trance and Beka. "Oh."
"Rommie! Wonderful. We have to go talk to Dylan." Beka said.
"About Raa, he knows Raa is a clone of Gaheris Rhade. Right now, both of them are closeted on the bridge. Dylan has just activated privacy. I would guess they are talking about Raa and why he was sent here."
"Great. Wasnít he and Rhade in a relationship before?"
"So heís not going to be clear on this exactly is he?"
"He will do his best, Beka."
"Well his best isnít always good enough."
"Donít worry, Beka. Raaís just going to tell him something he needs to know." Trance said, smiling at the two. "It will be all right."
"A feeling?" Beka arched one eyebrow.
"I just know it."
* * *
"Dylan, just let me talk ok?" Raa strode over to the curved ramp that led to the upper level of the bridge. Sitting on the edge, "Ok, this... me... started a long time ago? I did come from Darwin but at the behest of the current leader of our pride. You would be proud of her in a way. She is strong. Very strong. A fitting Daughter to you."
"Daughter?" Dylan looked stunned.
"Apparently Gaheris did some great deed for his sister, what deed it was is not recorded but itís big enough that she did as he asked without qualms. Even though she had to tell her husband about it, he didnít argue.
"Gaheris and you once made a sperm donation on Darwin. That was good. See we store up the sperm bank but every fifty years we change the location, the planet that has hosted it gets to keep a portion of all the donations. They use those donations when someone may want a child by a particular person but they are unavailable or dead.
"Rhade was from the Howe, which later became Darwinís Planet. He took some of your sperm and some of his. An egg sleeve from his sister. You know how we prize children so an egg sleeve was part of paying off the debt. He procured the services of a genetic engineer; she manipulated the DNA in your sperms until a child was produced. He specified a female child.
"I would guess since after a few simple tests the females are certified whereas males are required to prove themselves over and over. Also your features would be more noticeable on a male than female. Anyway Rhade had arranged for this embryo to be placed in his sister once the war started. If the Nietzscheans won the war and you were alive, you were to be brought to your daughter to help raise her. If the Commonwealth won, then they would ask you to spare her. Either way she would win. If you were alive in any case, you would be with your daughter... if he was alive after the war, he wanted to help raise his daughter. We know what happened with you though donít we Dylan.
"Denalie, her name, was raised on stories of how wonderful you and Rhade were. She didnít know if Rhade or you survived. She would make a pilgrimage at least once every five years to the Hephaestus black hole. There she did a memorial rite for the two of you. A prayer, an offering. The first time she was there is well documented and recorded. She stood, on her ship, head of her pride, the ship was named, Perseus. Fitting no?
"She had a clear dome placed on top of the ship so she could see Hephaestus. The very first time she went there, she took two night blooming flowers, nightstars, and twisted them together. And without tears she sent them into the black hole. She was raised to love you and for that reason every generation has at the very least one Dylan and one Gaheris.
"It was the only way to make your memorials permanent. She knew that day at Hephaestus that her dreams, the dreams her adoptive parents encouraged could never come true. She would never bear strong children to show her fathers. They would never know how far she advanced genetics. They would never know how revered she was for her work in genetics. That hurts, Dylan. It hurts a lot.
"The leadership passed down through her. The present Matriarch Onnika is not happy with you. You havenít hidden what happened. So they know now. All of them. Gaheris Rhade is dead. You killed him. Think Dylan, think hard about a girl raised to believe in two mythic personas. Two heroes. Only to find out one killed the other and is not sorry for it. I know you regret it, but if you had to do it again, you would. It hurts her. She wants to destroy you for destroying Rhade.
"Now to me, why did she create me? I donít know. Obviously it was to hurt you. I wonder now, how much of my escape from her was allowed. I wonder if she was merely herding me? Did she lead me to the Rakshava? Did she sabotage it? Did she set us up? I know some of it was. She wanted me to get close to you and Onnika knew my looks would make you favor me. There are a few questions left though." Raa took a deep breath and ticked each question off with a finger.
"1) She has yet to give me any instructions to sabotage the Andromeda. After trying so hard to get me on here, she hasnít used me yet. So what was the rush?
"2) We have been heading towards Darwinís Planet. Soon we will enter the sector of space that is controlled by the Gryphon Pride, Gaherisí Pride, Your Pride, holds. It canít really be trespassing since you are an Ancestor but Onnika wonít care so how will handle her?
"3) Now that you know, what are you going to do with me? I mean, I donít expect you to just let me go."
Raa leaned over and smiled, "The problem is, Iíve fallen in love with you somewhere along the way and I donít want to betray my Pride but I think we would fail the Ancestor of Gryphon Pride, if I didnít warn you." Raa leaned closer and brushed Dylanís lips with his, "Of course, your lips fit mine so well... we can wait to figure this out, right?"
Raa kissed Dylan again, raising his hands to cup Dylanís face. Feeling Dylan break away and kissing and nibbling down his neck. Dylan pulled him off the edge of the ramp and into his arms... a whisper in his ear, "love you, raa."
Seamus murmured and nuzzled even closer to Tyr, turning his head he latched onto a nipple. A gentle smile crossed Tyrís face as he looked at his mate.
A quiet chirp sounded through their quarters, a sign that someone wanted in to their quarters. Tyr swung his legs out of bed, placing Seamusí head on his pillow; and picked up a pair of shorts, slipping them on, he walked over to the door.
The door opened and one of Andromedaís androids entered. In itís hands it held a small jar and a note. Silently the android handed the note to Tyr.
Use this to relieve any muscular aches you or Harper may have.
Rolf and Andromeda
Tyr opened the jar, a light clean mint fragrance drifted up. Striding over to the bed he watched Seamus stir, holding tight to Tyrís pillow. Seamus turned over and kicked off the covers, his pale skin gleaming under the low lights. Stalking over, he stroked his manís spine. Like a feline, he arched his back and murmured, "Tyr."
Leaning down he kissed the valley right before the swell of his mateís buttocks. Licking and nibbling, he parted those creamy cheeks. It was faintly red, perhaps he had been a little hard with his claim but those who donít press their claim canít cry because they lose. Tyr never lost.
Taking a small amount of cream on two fingers, he gently massaged the cream into the tight clinch. Feeling a slight tingling on his fingers, he took them out and wiped them on the bed. Looking carefully for any red spots or irritation. Blowing a cool breath across his fingers, the tingling increased. Delightfully so. *Not only does it heal, but it arouses.*
"Rolf." He called out.
"Yes, Tyr?" Rolf answered from above.
"What is this stuff?"
"Itís an analgesic cream with some aphrodisiac properties."
"Enjoy, Tyr." Rolf said quietly as his voice faded out.
* * *
Dylan looked up and stared into Raaís eyes. Soft, gentle brown eyes. "Raa. Donít try to distract me with this."
"Iím not Dylan! What are we going to do? If I betray her, I betray my pride because no matter if I am a clone, I am also a Gryphon You are one of our two greatest ancestors, with me being the clone of the other one. Perhaps attraction does have to do with pheromones and other genetic similarities cause I am attracted to you much like Gaheris was. But Iím not him and I wonít let you make me over into him. Enough about our relationship; we need to think about what we will do about Onnika. I canít ask you to kill her because she is your great-great-great-great granddaughter. What will we do?" Raa slid into Dylanís lap and stared out into the stars.
"How long until we are in Gryphon territory?"
"Only a few hours at this rate. Why?"
"I think we should have a meeting of everyone to acquaint them with what we are facing. Itís not fair to hide this from them especially when they are going to end up risking their lives."
"True. Must I attend? I rather get a head start before they try to kill me."
"Well if you are afraid that they will hurt you, then weíll move your quarters."
"Youíre moving into mine, you can sleep on the couch."
"Thanks Dylan." A small smile crossed his face.
"Welcome, letís just rest here for a bit before we call everyone in."
Raa sat tense as the crew came onto the bridge. Rommie stood behind him, a smile twitching the corners of her face. Dylan stood beside him, if only Dylan would keep standing beside him. Maíctor came in slowly. Still a little gray from his seizure. Raa touched his arm and pointed him towards a spot to sit. Next Tyr and Harper entered, Tyr leaning slightly ahead and in front of Harper. *Heís protecting Harper. I guess that and the collar means they are happy*. Raa turned to see Maíctor looking at him. Maíctorís eyes flicked to the new couple and Maíctor smiled.
Beka strode aggressively onto the bridge followed by a chattering Trance. Rev, placid as always, stood at the door. Rommie placed a small disk on the floor and a hologram of Rolf appeared.
"Well, now that we are all here, we have some decisions that have to be made by all of us. Raa?"
"My name is not Gavain Raa. It is Gaheris Rhade the Second. I am a clone of the original Gaheris. During shore leave on the Howe, Gaheris and Dylan both gave several sperm samples and genetic samples. Later after the genetic data bank left the Howe, a selection of material remained behind.
"Sometime before the war started, Gaheris committed a great deed. It was such a great deed that he was able to request from his own blood sister an egg. You all know how much Nietzscheans prize our genetic history, therefore for a woman to give up an egg, knowing that the genetic material in that egg will be discarded to be replaced by genetically engineered material is a great sacrifice. For her to in turn bear the altered egg, shows the sheer magnificence of the deed. For his sister did bear the child. That child was the daughter of Gaheris and Dylan. Sometime in the past, Rhade convinced Dylan to contribute to the gene bank. Most materials arenít used until the donor is dead. His journal states that he was amazed by Dylan and couldnít believe he was only human. So he and Dylan went to the Howe one leave and shared the experience. Among males itís a bonding ritual. The child lived. Her name was Denalie. She later became the Matriarch of the Gryphon Pride.
"The past 303 years, they have been Matriarch of the Gryphon Pride. The present Matriarch is Onnika. I was born two years ago when she woke me up. She gave me a short synopsis of what has happened. Would it shock you Tyr to find out that they consider you to be a traitor for staying with the Andromeda? I bet not. From what little I could gather from Onnikaís database was that the Vedrans arenít really all that down. There seems to be some hint of rebuilding but I couldnít pull together anything conclusive.
"True to form about 8 months before I was picked up by you, I left Onnika. I was tired of having her run my life. I did get a job on board the Rakshava. I didnít know about the crash. When we did crash I contacted her, I figured she might still need me, but then I ran into you. It was such a coincidence, I believed myself to have been herded.
"Since then, I have kept in contact with her, but amazingly for all the trouble she went through to get me on board this ship, I have had no instructions to sabotage the Andromeda. We are heading towards Gryphon space. Everyone knows about Andromeda now. They even know that one Ancestor of Gryphon killed the other. Everyone knew that it would have to be one or the other. Doesnít make it easier to accept. Onnika was not happy. She believes that Dylan should have laid down his life simply because he was so honored to have a child with a Nietzschean. We know that Dylan didnít know about his daughter but it doesnít really occur to a Nietzschean to hide the parentage of a child. She doesnít know that Rhade never told Dylan about Denalie. I know Onnika will want him dead but Dylan survived and we all prize survival. So when he meets her, sheíll have to play nice. She hates him and us.
"Dylan is an Ancestor of Gryphon Pride, she dares not kill him openly nor us for we are his crew and such an insult cannot be taken. Dylan has the right to move through this system, he can make treaties, anything. When he moves in, he can take over Gryphon. For 300 years we have had a female leader instead of a male. For 300 years we prospered. Now we have Dylan and they will do as he says. His presence alone strips her of her power. In a few hours we will be in Gryphon space. What shall we do?"
* * *
After two hours of discussion, no one had any coherent ideas. Raa stood up and looked out at the stars, "Less than three hours before we are in her space. My thought is we come in spouting Dylanís peace talk as usual. Dylan, act ignorant of your place. This will lead her into false security, she will overstep her bounds and you may get her to step down without killing her. Onnika will wonder why you are ignorant since Tyr would know most of this. That is why Tyr is going to Ďbetrayí you. Tyr, if the Vedrans are reestablishing the Commonwealth and that is Dylanís goal too, you would best be on our side. Why? Cause Harper wants you to, the benefits of Vedran goodwill, plus the prestige of making a new Commonwealth where the Nietzscheans are one of the prime movers. Helping them reestablish the Commonwealth will put you in a unique and powerful position. Women will flock to you. You can reestablish your Pride. Better yet, since I think Harper is a little too possessive, such a deed would mark you as a great leader, one who can unite the Nietzscheans. Who would not open their genetic vaults? What woman would not carry those children? With one decision you can raise and unite the Nietzscheans. So what I want you to do is get other Nietzscheans to ally themselves with you. Explain what can be theirs. Thatís all. Itís important that news of this gets back to Onnika, she must believe you are betraying Dylan. However be careful because the Gryphons will also believe this and they may attack you. Once she believes that you are going behind Dylanís back to jockey for a larger and better position in the new Commonwealth. That you would sell out the Commonwealth if it means that you can unite the Nietzscheans under the Kodiaks. She would expect this of you, after all itís very us. Help us set her up and we will help you restore the Kodiak.
"Harper, you and Beka, should be considered invisible if it were not for the fact that Beka is his first officer. As the second in command of the Ancestorís vessel you will have a right to examine any ship, any record you wish. Since if Dylan takes over Gryphon they would expect you to continue in that manner. They know Beka that you were once a Captain of your own ship, Maru. They know you submit to being the Ancestorís second in command, you lose no respect and even though you are human they will treat you a lot better. After all the Denalie was half human and she still managed to take over Gryphon and make it prosper. Dylan is considered to be almost good enough to be a Nietzschean. Itís a compliment.
"Harper, all the labs, research, everything is yours. She will give you passwords to unlock anything. If it doesnít, kick up a stink about it. Behave like a brat. All geniuses are temperamental and spoiled, even our own.
"As for Trance... well she seems so innocent that at first they will not believe anyone can be that naive, so everyone play up stories about how innocent she is. They will believe soon enough that anything she does that is insulting or out of protocol is simply cause she doesnít know it and cannot be taught. Simple, in other words. Letís use it to our advantage as she has already done so.
"Maíctor. We will let them know that you sometimes go into fits... of your Thinker abilities. This will prompt them to listen very carefully to what you say. If you feel a true Thinker fit coming; get back to the ship or someplace else that is safe and unmonitored and one of our crew will take care of you. Otherwise, when we want them to believe disinformation we may use a Ďfití to disseminate it.
"Rommie is a being of respect because she is a truly loyal individual and because she is the Ancestorís ship, the Andromeda. She is and was home to the two who made the one who elevated Gryphon. In fact, Denalieís ship was called the Perseus. Perseus being Andromedaís rescuer and husband in Greek legend.
"As for Rolf, no one should see him, letís have one person we all trust to be hidden. Rev, they already know about you but Nietzscheans do not like Magog. I suggest you limit yourself to meeting with diplomats and negotiators; they are more forgiving and wonít try to kill you. We donít want to lose you Rev, so letís not give them the chance."
Raa turned around and leaned back against the wall, looking at Dylan, "Good plan?"
"Yeah Rhade, you have everyoneís future planned," Beka frowned, "but what will you be doing?"
"Playing Onnika and hoping she doesnít think Iíve betrayed her. Making myself into a target. Making myself more despised than Tyr, he has the excuse that if he helps Dylan that maybe he can rebuild his Pride. I donít. Most of all, I am going to try and make sure I stay alive. Isnít that what all Nietzscheans do?" Raa pushed himself up off the wall and walked off the bridge. Quickly he strode down the halls to the quarters he was sharing with Dylan and headed straight for the bedroom. Dropping onto the bed, he curled up and went to sleep.
* * *
Dylan frowned as he walked down the hall to his quarters. After Raa had left, the rest had discussed, argued, and talked loudly about the plan but it was put into effect with some minor revision. *Rhade,* Dylan shook his head, *Raa really was somewhat of a genius when he wanted to be.* Dylan entered his quarters and looked around for the young man. Striding straight to the bedroom he stopped, Raa was asleep on his bed. The past couple of months had let Raa grow his hair long. It curled slightly behind his ears. It lay flat on his neck but curled up as it reached around his throat. Dylan leaned down and brushed the long hair out of his way. Slipping out of his ships leather, he pulled the covers from under Raa. Sliding in next to him, Dylan covered them both and pulled Raa into his arms. A few minutes later Dylan was asleep.
Raa snuggled closer into the warm arms and fell back asleep feeling warm breath caressing his neck.
Andromeda slid into the docking port at Beagle Space Station. Dylan turned around in the pilotís chair, "Everyone ready?"
"Yeah." Harper murmured. Tyr just gave a short nod. Trance chirped a Ďyesí and Beka headed for the door.
"Captain, I detect a number of people waiting in the docking bay, in front of the ship."
"Of course you do Rommie. Beagle station is named after the ship Darwin used to get to the islands. Beagle has always been Gryphon territory, and every Gryphon knows that the Ancestor Dylan is Captain of the Andromeda Ascendant. They know what he looks like. Often modified High Guard uniforms come into fashion. Which is why I had everyone dress in ship leathers. Itís a sign that we are his crew and they wonít mess with us. If they saw us in our own clothes, they would wonder if Dylan was too weak to enforce the rules. So be careful, never let them think that Dylan doesnít enforce High Guard rules. Rev, since you are a member of the Way, thatís religious. So you donít need to wear the leathers as long as you wear the patch of the Andromeda. Harper, first thing you do, before you get lost chatting with other techs, is get a trim. Itís not necessary to cut your hair off but a trim would be nice and itíll keep your ends healthy." Raa twitched a smile. "Sorry. I had to. Dylan you go first and then we come out and fan behind you. Rommie you go out last and shut the door behind us. Then come up to stand next to Dylan."
"Man this is like some kind of play or something." Harper complained.
"Yes, very much so, Harper. We have to play specific parts so that Onnika sees what we wish her to see rather than what is. In this way and only this way will we make it out of here alive. Onnika is up to something. Something big. We have to find out what it is and how to turn it to our advantage before she kills us. She will kill us. We pose way too much of a threat to any plan for power. If Dylan dies, all the Gryphons will look to Beka or Rommie or whosoever Rommie acknowledges as her Captain. Dylan has more power than Onnika. If he decides not to back her, she loses the Pride. Everyone smile, action." Raa pasted a smile on his face and pressed the open for the hatch.
* * *
Onnika stood silently with her advisors. Behind them thronged most of the Gryphons that lived on Beagle station. *Finally the Ancestor has come to Beagle station. Raa has done his job, luring Dylan into my hands. Now letís see if heís managed to wear down the Ancestorís vaunted nobility.* Pulling her dark honey blond hair from her face, Onnika stared at him with dark blue eyes staring out from a copy of Rhade's face. Stepping forward she smiled at the man who could destroy her.
* * *
Tyr placed his hand on his mateís back. A feeling of joy welled up as his Seamus leaned back into his hand. Eyes moving constantly, he checks for those in the crowd who may have a more than glancing interest in his mate. *My Seamus. Yes, I won the greatest prize.* Gently he nudges Harper forward as Dylan moved off.
* * *
A young boy stood in awe as the glance of the Ancestor fell on him. Taking a deep breath and pushing his chest out, he returned the stare with one of his one, one of welcome. *The Ancestor seems sad.* Innocent as he is, he didnít understand that Dylan knew an intra-pride war was on the brink and that some would die. The boy also didnít know that he would be one of those who would die.
* * *
Beka smiled and waved to the crowd below. Most of the women she noticed, looked at her with veiled eyes. Remembering that Raa told them that she outranked them all except Onnika and was in fact equal to Onnika, made her smile wider. *If I have to play stupid then Iím going to play it all the way. Let them think I donít know what Iím doing. Take it in the teeth girls. Iím in town to have some fun.* Following Dylan, she strutted across the boat bay towards the main group. Taking a closer look at the group she realized that the one who stood about half a step out in front of the rest had Raaís feature but Dylanís hair. Onnika.
* * *
Famiraís eyes took in the people heading towards her mistress. It was hard being the head advisor to the Matriarch of the Gryphon Pride but it carried such status with it. Enough to make sure the men all competed for her. Now, it was time to see if she could snag the highest male of them all. The Ancestor. Any child directly descendant of the Ancestor had more rank than Onnika and the genes... they were enough to make any female willing. As regent for the child, Famira could take over Gryphon. *Spend your little remaining time wisely Onnika. You and your daughter will be prideless soon.*
* * *
*Whoa, look at all of them. I donít think I can do this. Would now be a good time to tell Dylan and Tyr about the Nietzscheans that tortured me? Perhaps I should have told them before now? Oh God. So many Fucking Nietzs.* Harper trembled and felt a hand on the small of his back. Tyr leaned closer, "Whatís wrong, Seamus?"
Harper blinked at hearing his name. Smiling he spoke out the side of his mouth, "Did I ever tell you about the time I finally got off Earth only to be sold by the Captain of the ship to some Nietzscheans? Who yanked out the crummy data port I had installed and installed this nice new top of the line one? Did I ever tell you about them torturing me? About the electric whip or the knives? Those spikes are not that dull." Harper started to shiver.
"You are my mate, Seamus Zelazny Harper Anasazi. And that means they can never hurt you again. If they approach you, Iíll kill them. Now smile because you outrank all of them." Tyr murmured into his ear.
Harper looked at them, some of their eyes flickered to the collar, eyes wide they stared at them. *They know what this means. I outrank them. I have more power and Iím the Ancestorís engineer and head of his science department. They canít hurt me, not without starting a war. Dylan would do that for me. If Tyr fights them, that will start a war too, but I know they would fight anyway. Iím important. To Dylan and Tyr.* Tilting his head up a bit, he lets his eyes roll to watch as Tyr glares at everyone. *I am Important to Tyr. He... loves me.*
* * *
Dzuris stares at one of the men walking with the Gryphonís Ancestor. Moving forward he sees the young man clearer. Tall but thin. Light blond hair falling spiked up. Sharp blue eyes. As the young man turns slightly to talk to a tall dark Nietzschean, a data port gleams in the light. Seamus or as he was called on Hangfire, Chrome. *Well well, I travel all the way here only to find a runaway slave. I wonder how much they would pay for him and if his ĎCaptainí knows. If he doesnít now, he soon will.* "Very soon, Chrome... Harper."
Maíctor smoothed down his short light blue fur as he followed behind Tyr, his ears flicked forward at the word Ďtorturedí. Listening carefully he comes to realize what Raa meant about playing a part. *All these people are enemies. They would sell out anyone to further their goals, their status. They honor us because we are the Ancestorís crew. Even I, lowest of the crew, am still higher in status than anyone save the advisors.* Maíctorís fox-like ears swiveled towards a Nietzschean male. He was staring at Harper, he called him Chrome. *Our first enemy. You will never touch Harper again.*
* * *
Cold eyes glared at the Magog in the group exiting the Andromeda. *How dared they bring a Magog onto the Beagle. Do they have no respect?* For all that Nietzscheans are called butchers, they were never responsible for such a crime as Brandenburg Tor. A low rumble sounded through the ranks as the Magog marched behind the Ancestor.
* * *
*So much hate. If only they were to deliver their pain up onto the divine. Perhaps while I am here, we can make peace about what has happened.* Rev followed slowly, his red robe wrapped about him. Around each arm a red leather circle, stitched with the Andromedaís emblem. As Dylan stopped in front of a middle-aged woman, Rev bowed and saluted her.
* * *
A young man watched as Famira stared at Dylan. *This cannot be, he is merely human though he is our Ancestor. I will not allow him to take Famira. If anyone should win her, it will be me*. He watched Dylan as he moved closer. *Strong but I will defeat him.*
* * *
Trance twisted in the leather. It wasnít odd for her to wear it but so much of it. She kept her tail wrapped around her waist, since she didnít know what the Nietzscheans would do. Sure Tyr already accepted her but heís been around her for awhile. So many of them. Gently she flexed her mind, opening petal by petal. *So many emotions. Anger. Joy. Hatred from no few minds battered at her. Simple delight in seeing the Ancestor. Desire. Envy. Ownership*. She looked up at that one. A pale Nietzschean was focused on Harper. *This might be trouble.*
* * *
Kaeg watched as the crew of the Andromeda Ascendant walked across to meet the Gryphons. Carefully he analyzed what he observed about the group. Purple would want to know more about this group, they had after all defeated Jaeger. Switching systems, the cyborg catalogued the physical specs of each of them. He was going to be smarter than Jaeger. He was going to talk to Purple before going after them. Silently he stood scanning with his aural sensors, a tinny sound reached him. It came from the ship. Turning to focus his eyes on them, he quickly flipped his visual sensors until he found the correct frequency. There was a barrier embedded into the skin of the ship. It would make it harder for him to pass through the wall. Apparently they learned something from their encounter with Jaeger. It wouldnít stop him from getting the evidence.
* * *
Rommie stood beside Dylan, she held out her hand to Onnika. Rommie clasped her forearm and, with a look that betrayed shock on her face, she greeted Rommie with the clasp. "Sister. Did you think that after having Rhade on board for almost three years, that I did not pick up on some of the Nietzscheans traditions? Rhade was perhaps one of the best first officers that I ever had. I was disappointed that in the end, Dylan had to kill him to survive but as Rhade said when he was dying, he was proud that Dylan finally learned to survive. It was a tragedy but he died well and we miss him greatly even now.
"I can honestly say that since I was built in 9772 and in the 17 years of my operation once you subtract the 303 years that we were stuck in the black hole, I have never respected an officer, save Dylan, more than Rhade."
*Letís just put a spoke in your wheel, Onnika. Remember you arenít equal to Dylan, you arenít even equal to me, Iím being generous calling you Ďsisterí and they know it. Letís put you in debt first.*
* * *
Caeilla stood at her motherís side. Large brown eyes looked up from a minute of Rhadeís face, brushing her pale blond hair out of her eyes, she focused all her 10 year old gaze on her Ancestor. *So this is the Ancestor. He looks like Mother. I donít want Mother to hurt him but she will. He has more power than her. I donít think I should like him this much but he is the Ancestor. Do I owe more allegiance to him or Mother?*
* * *
Raa stared at Onnika, trying to make his eyes communicate what he so desperately needed her to believe. *Yes, Onnika, I caught him. Heís practically wrapped around my finger but heís so dense, he doesnít guide well. His overwhelming nobility and stubbornness gets in my way. I will not betray you. Help me blind him. Help me rule him. He will have a softness for you since you are his granddaughter, what I could not do alone mayhaps we can do together.*
* * *
*So many people out there.* Dylan scanned the crowd. So many of the faces had some characteristic that he could connect with Gaheris or himself. Dark honey hair. Gaherisí chin. Eyes flickering, he noticed one woman, she wasnít young but she wasnít past middle aged either. Her hair was perhaps a shade lighter than Dylanís, her eyes were darker almost a purple, but her face. Her face was Rhadeís. A little softer on the cheeks perhaps but it was Rhadeís face. He watched as Rommie greeted her and placed Onnika in Rommieís debt. Perhaps we can pull this off and get out of her alive. Taking a deep breath, he smiled at her. Stepping closer, he stopped in front of her, "Onnika?"
"Yes, Ancestor Dylan. I am Onnika Hunt-Rhade, your granddaughter.
Dylan leaned back in the chair, gently wrapping his arm around Raaís waist. Pulling him gently over, Dylan nuzzled his neck before turning towards Onnika. "Iím glad to meet you. I never thought I would have kids. So to find out about Denalie... was remarkable."
"I guess it would be, Ancestor. I am pleased to introduce to you the future of our clan, Caeilla, my daughter." A young girl about ten stood next to Onnika, her hair in one long braid hung down her back.
Dylan turned to look at her, "Caeilla? Thatís a... wonderful name. Would you like to learn about another woman I know, her name was the same as yours."
"Yeah? Who was she?"
"My mother. Caeilla Rowan of Tallin Clan of the planet Chevalier."
* * *
Harper groaned as he lowered himself onto the bed. *Whatever Onnika may think or try to do with us, she will do it in style. This room is sinful. Harper lay back on the huge bed and stretched out. Iíll only close my eyes for a minute or two, just so damn tired. Those scientists are voracious, wouldnít...*
* * *
Tyr entered their room and lay some specs on the table. Grunting, he stretched and flexed his muscles. *Where is Seamus? I doubt he would go out by himself with all these Nietzscheans about. The boy will drive me to distraction.* Tyr turned to the bathroom but was stopped when the door sounded a Ďrequest-to-enterí chime. Tyr sighed and took a stance a little out of the doorís line of sight.
The door opened to allow a young man, perhaps fifteen and just getting his muscle, in. The boy wore a shirt with the official Gryphon livery. His glance flickered about looking for Tyr. Entering a bit more, the boy again took stock of his surrounding. "Lord Tyr?"
The boy turned around slowly, with care. "Lord Tyr, Lady Onnika invites you and your mate, to a formal reception dinner tonight. The dinner will take place at 2000 hours. She hopes that you will be able to join her and the rest of the Ancestorís crew."
"I would be delighted. Tell your lady... that Lord Harper, my mate, and I will join our crew at her dinner. Dismissed." Tyr turned from the boy and headed down the hair. Listening he could hear the boy give an explosive disgusted breath and the whispered word, "kludge" before Tyr flew back down the hall and drove the child into the wall.
"What did you call my mate?" Tyr demanded.
"Lord Tyr? Nothing?" The boy lied.
"When you are in this position... when you are in a position where lying makes punishment worse you would be advised to tell the truth. Now, it was a long choice before I chose Harper. You are saying that I donít have the ability to choose a good mate? Is that what you are saying?"
"No, sir. But a human?" The boy asked amazed.
"A human who manages to keep a Galaxy class High Guard ship of the line in good shape. Tonight at dinner, you will ask me what one thing made me choose Harper and I will tell you. Then no one will doubt. Be gone now." Tyr released the boy and watched as he fled. "Child."
Shaking his head, he walked down the hall to the bathroom. A glimpse of blond hair stopped him in his tracks. Turning he saw his mate, his Seamus, lying on their bed. A slim, long, pale figure snaked its way across the dark rich blue sheets. The shocking white blond hair fell in soft lines on the dark covers. The pale skin of the back was one long expanse. At one point he was covered in the sheet, which now was wrapped around his ankles. *I guess washing up can wait for a bit itís only 1215 now.* Grinning Tyr entered the room.
* * *
Raa smiled at his Dylan. Dylan sat in a comfortable chair looking over some reports of the Andromedaís readiness. *His Dylan. Never thought I would say that. But he is... my Dylan. Or he wants to be and that is really all that matters*. Raa stood up and walked over to Dylan.
"Yes, Raa?" Dylan asked without looking up.
"Put the report down, please."
"I need to finish reading these."
*Sigh. He may be my Dylan but heís also the Captain.* "Yes, Dylan." Leaning over Raa took the report from Dylanís hands and tossed it on a nearby table. Climbing into Dylanís lap and straddling him, he gave Dylan a kiss. Long, slow, deep, and sweet. Just like Dylan likes them. Leaning back he frowned at the only mildly stunned expression of Dylan. With a sigh, he got up and headed towards the bedroom.
Dylan stared at the shapely skintight leather covered ass of his beloved for a moment and took off after him. Catching his lover before he got into the bed, Dylan swung him around and caressed his silky shoulder; "Maybe Iíve done enough reports today."
"You think?" Raa started slipping out of his leather shipsuit. "Donít want to take you away from anything important."
"Nothing is more important."
"Not even the Commonwealth?" Raa mocked.
"The Commonwealth understands love. It is what makes it ok for you and me to love and be happy so, no not even the Commonwealth."
Raa wrapped his arms about him and kissed him, lips parting, hands tangling his wavy dark blond hair, moving down to caress Dylanís face. "I love you Dylan Hunt."
"And I you, Gavain."
Dylan lowered them to the bed, where he started to explore the beautiful form that was Gavain Raa.
*If there is anything more boring than a state dinner, I havenít seen it yet.* Harper stared at the people watching every move he and the others made. If he tasted something and didnít take more of it, then the various engineers, who Harper recognized from the earlier meeting, wouldnít eat it.
"Yes, Harper?" Tyr replied, never taking his gaze from a young man who sat across from him.
"Why are they looking at me that way?" He pressed.
"The engineers? Easy. Some foods can help increase brain activity. Everything you eat, they will most likely copy in an effort to understand your intelligence."
"Wonderful, I can get them addicted to Shock Cola!"
Tyr and the other Nietzscheans at the table turned to look at him. "That would not be... one of your better ideas, my Harper." Tyr quaked inside at the thought of Nietzschean Harpers. Hyped up on that Cola and all in one room. It was the stuff of nightmares.
"No, but then kludge like that donít have good ideas, they merely repeat the words of their betters." The young man across the table said to them.
Tyr turned to him, a fire building behind his dark chocolate eyes. "What did you say?"
"Well since you have spent so much time with kludge, I guess you have gone down..." The young man sneered.
A little higher up on the table, Dylan put his head into his hands, turning to Onnika, he announced in a clear voice, "I am sorry about this Onnika, I promise we will clean up the larger pieces but I canít promise we will get it all. People should know not to bait Tyr, he tends to start shredding and not stop."
"Boy. You have no idea who you just insulted and I donít mean Dylan." Tyr looked around. "You think Dylan is so great, well you just insulted Seamus Zelazny Harper Anasazi, the Angel of Death. All of you know of the Battle of Witch Head. But we know something about it you donít.
"It is said that we had 500 ships, this everyone knows. Nietzscheans know that we had 1500 ships but it is told that at the Ďcritical hour, the angel of death appeared summoning forth the fires of hellí and our fleet was destroyed except for 500 ships." Tyr paused and smiled at his mate, "I never saw an angel before I saw him.
"We really arenít sure what Trance is but somehow... some way, she managed during a lesson in slipstream piloting to send us back over three hundred years. I saw the ships at Witch Head. I desired to go with them but the price was too high. Harper managed to find within the nebula... a small amount of mineral, that he could trigger, a fusion catalyst. Harper destroyed 1000 of our ships, 100,000 of our people. With one finger, with, his idea he became the Angel of Death. Who better to have at my side? The Angel of Death and a mechanical genius. And I knew they would die.
"I never warned them. If the Nietzscheans had won the Battle of Witch Head, we would have reigned supreme for a small while before infighting collapsed us. Now there is a greater danger, and maybe itís only Harper who will be able to help us.
"Recently we have found proof that the Magog are bioengineered. They could never have gotten into space by themselves. More over, that this same intelligence guided their attacks, such as the one of Brandenburg Tor. Another of this intelligence was guiding the Consensus of Parts, the machine collective. Back then we were not prepared to fight them. Now we are almost ready. For do not doubt they are coming. And they will kill us." Tyr sat down and started in on his food again, using his fork to eat of his mateís plate.
"Oh yeah... thatís the other thing I wanted to talk to you about Onnika." Dylan smiled.
* * *
In a corner of the room, Kaeg sat. I must tell them to hurry.
*If I hear one more insincere platitude about how honored they are to meet one of the illustrious Ancestorís crew, I do believe that I will shoot someone. I canít believe we wasted almost a week here listening to this garbage.* Maíctor walked down the hall, a small gloom cloud shading his light blue fur of his face. So intent was he on getting back to the ship and avoiding anyone that he didnít notice when Raa joined him.
Maíctor jumped in surprise. "Raa. Nothing."
"Yeah, thatís why people are running out of your way. Whatís wrong?"
"They lie." Maíctor stated.
"And?" Raa tried not to laugh.
"They lie *so* much?"
Raa gave a small laugh and stopped Maíctor, "Of course they do. The only time they tell the truth is when it will benefit them. Did no one tell you the three ways of lies? First, tell a lie so convincingly it must be true. Second, tell the truth but in a way so incredible that it must be a lie. Or third, tell a mix of both.
"We lie like second nature, because it is second nature. We keep what we know a secret and what others want to know we keep or sell at a price. What lie are they telling you now?"
"ĎI am so pleased to be honored with a visit by one of the illustrious Ancestorís crew.í"
"Well they are, Maíctor. If they can get others to see them as connected with you, your friend, your colleague, then they must be connected to the Ancestor. Itís just a way of making all the necessary connections. We donít want the largest set of connections. We want the smallest and tightest. Think about if I have 100 connections but I have to go through 6 levels to reach an advisor to the head of the pride, what kind of influence do I have? My point would be diluted. If I have 10 connections but only have to go through 1 level, well then... is it not more likely that she will hear what I need to say clearer?"
"I see. So they want me to introduce them to Dylan, whereafter they will dump me and sink their spikes into Dylan?"
"Sort of but they wonít dump you, in case they need you again."
"Thanks..." Maíctor started walking again. "Raa?"
"Is there any way to track slaves? Even if you donít know who owned them?"
"Perhaps, if they were skilled enough. Often we build databases of other prideís best slaves. Breeding is important as you know. If letís say Gryphon has a mechanical genius and we breed them to another mechanical genius. Out of five kids we get two with mechanical genius. We breed those two with others. Out of five we get 3. Same thing over and over until we get 9 out of 10 kids with Mechanical ability. What about the rejects? Sometimes we sell them, so a slave tree is needed so we know. We do have an index for that. Why?"
"I need to find out about a slave... about 10 maybe 15 years ago. Called Chrome."
"I can tell you about him." Raa offered.
"How do you know this Raa? If you are a clone then... you didnít grow up knowing this." Maíctor asked amazed.
"Well easy. Jacks can transfer a lot of different information. Like maybe even part of a download of someone." Raa stated, his brown eyes distant.
"What did they do to you?"
"Nothing. Iím a clone, it doesnít matter."
"Youíre a person, it does matter. We love you, Dylanís *in* love with you."
"Ahh... anyway about Chrome. You must understand that Nietzscheans are methodical. Of course we keep databases of slaves, to make breeding easier of course. If we have a mechanical genius... well part of it in the genes. So we would breed him with another mechanical genius. Say 2 out of five kids are mechanical geniuses. Well we take note of all factors of the women he was breeded to and weed out two or three factors that seemed to bring out the mechanical genius. Then those are breeded to other mechanical geniuses that fit the profile. Say this generation itís 3 out of five... then itís continued until itís 5 out of 5. This is the way we breed slaves. Sometimes though a wild talent sometimes pops up. The wild talent often proves to be better and of more use than the bred talent. Perhaps because when a person seeks to use a wild talent they learn, usually because itís necessary, to use it in innovative and unique ways."
"So they are less structured... Chrome was a wild talent." Maíctor smiled.
"Yes, he was and as far as anyone knows, still is. We donít know where he is. See... about some twenty plus years ago, a young boy was born in a refugee camp on Earth. Often this camp was raided by members of the Pride Cobra. They would steal the best and brightest. Among those was Chrome. But he was tricky, he managed to get away or so he thought. He was being herded to stow away on a particular freighter. He did and the man sold him to Cobra to clear his debts.
"Next we need to talk about Frederic du Valle. He was a scientist. He was a mechanist. He developed a very special jack, like the port that Harper has. This port was unique because if installed into a young mind, one which had not settled down into itís adult pattern, then it would allow itís user to access the portion of human mind that is usually left dormant. Human use about 15-20% percent of their brain capacity. Nietzscheans manage to use up to 28% but no more and we wonít breed to up our usage. Itís dangerous. It causes mental problem with accessing the world. They get too much information from the world, too much to process. They go catatonic. We donít need a race of catatonic and autistic people."
Maíctor shuddered at the thought of what too much information could do. "So this jack wasnít very useful was it?"
"No, it was very useful, because it merely stored information in the unused portions. The jack allowed the person to access it at their best speed but not so fast that it would overload their neural pathways. Itís basically a database and retrieval system. So they can cram so much info that would normally lead a person into a breakdown, but not with the jack, cause it could be stored in an unused sector.
"du Valle, managed to kill himself shortly afterwards, he hated Nietzscheans. After he implanted Chrome with the jack. Chrome soon escaped and no one has heard of him since. Why? Why are you so interested?"
"Chrome may be alive still?"
"Of course, heíd only be about 25 maybe younger. Why?!"
"When we came... a Nietzschean stood watching us. Tall, he was sort of bronze but he had ship pallor under his bronze skin. He was watching Tyr and Harper... he smiled when Harper walked past. He said... ĎVery soon, Chrome... Harperí. I think he wants Harper back. I donít know if Harper remembers the time cause he doesnít talk about it. I donít want to worry Dylan if Iím wrong. You canít say anything. Not until I know for fact. But if Harper is Chrome..."
Raa stared at him and leaned back against the wall. Shaking his head, he slipped down the wall to sit on the floor.
* * *
Raa sat on the bed, watching Dylan sleep. *If Harper is Chrome, no wonder he managed to kill a thousand fighters. I love them... I donít know why but the crew is mine in a way. Part of being Dylanís lover huh?*
Raa leaned down and pulled the dark crimson colored sheets from the body of his lover. Dylanís tanned form lay on the sheets, cold he reached for the sheet and turned over. Raa reached over and pulled his man onto his back. Slowly Raa kissed down the midline. Lips caressing, tugging on the tangled dark blond thatch of hair that stretched from the middle of Dylanís chest. Lips tickled down to his navel, Raa ran his tongue over and around, dipping into the well of his navel. *He tastes like light, like thick cream... no, more like that drink he gave me. Thick cream with just a bit of coffee powder. My taste of Dylan.*
Raa smiled and kissed his way further down, burrowing his nose in the warm curls that surrounded Dylanís cock. It half lay there, warm and thick, slightly rising. Taking a deep breath, Raa lifted his head and with one gulp took all the cock in. He felt it spring to life in his mouth, smiling around the thick long cock in his mouth, Raa used his tongue to lick and lave it. Dylan sat up and looked at Raa, with his ate the cream look, and fell back onto the pillow. "Gavain!"
Dylan reached down and ran his hands through Raaís long dark hair. Wrapping his fingers in some of the longer strands he tugged his manís head up. Raa let the cock fall out of his mouth.
"Yes?" Raa smiled.
"I... love you."
"I know, Mate." Raa took Dylan back into his mouth again and sucked him hard. Wrapping one hand around his hip to keep Dylan from bucking into his mouth, Raa licked the tip of one finger. Slipping the other hand under Dylan, he gently pushed, gently prodded the small tucker. Pressing the pad in, he gently teased the hole. Slowly he pushed it in until he could feel that bump of joy. The nub of pleasure. A few quick strokes and he was drinking down Dylan.
Dylan back, exhausted and sweating, opening his arms, he stared down at his lover. Raa took the cock out of his mouth and cleaned it with some soft gentle licks, laying it back down and patting it, he crawled up the bed until he lay in Dylanís arms and on his chest. Dylan wrapped his arms about Raa. "Thank you."
"Hmmm I enjoyed it." Raa said as he nuzzled into Dylan neck.
"Sleep now, love you."
Raa gently slipped asleep, for the first time sure that he was someone.
Maíctor watched as Harper bounced around a lab, correcting his pupils and at times arguing with them. After two weeks of teaching them, Harper seemed to have gotten over his fear of the Nietzscheans
"That will not work. There is no way for the power to simply do that." One of Harperís pupils objected.
"Well, Mr. Toughman, it does work. I made it work on the Andromeda. Now Iíll teach you to make it work here. True, your gear is less... advanced than Rommieís but thatís OK. Before Dylan, I worked with a lot of useless Nietzschean machinery. So itís no trouble to bring myself back down. Iíll just visit Rommieís engine room and bring myself back to civilized engineering. Now try it again! If it blows up, donít be afraid. We can repeat it until we get it right. Thatís the point. Thatís part of engineering. TESTING. Go." Harper pointed to a workstation. He watched the Nietzschean move over there with a stiff back. Closing his eyes, he let out a deep breath. Turning he headed over to where Maíctor stood. Eyes closed he kept walking until he walked up onto Maíctor. "Ahhh. Blue boy! Do not do that to me again."
"Didnít mean to this time. I see... that you are working well with your enemies."
"You mean the supermen? Yeah." Harper nodded and pulled a couple of chairs from a nearby table. "So whatís up? Need something from my wunderkids?" He smiled.
"No," Maíctor sat down and leaned close, "What do you know about a Nietzschean slave named Chrome? According to Raa, he was rather famous."
"Not much. Earth born, taken by Cobra Pride, he had an experimental jack, and heís dead." He rattled off.
"Well thereís no proof that heís dead." Maíctor looked to the side. "But he was a mechanical genius bar none. It was thought that he was so good that he rivaled the best scientists of the Commonwealth. He was considered young and handsome, fair of hair and skin. He had the most amazing light grass green eyes. I found a picture of him but he was young and itís not a good picture. You have dirty blond hair and light blue eyes. Surgery? Had them do a little restructure with your hair and eyes?"
"Why are you asking this?"
"Have you told Tyr... who you are?" Maíctor asked, taking one of Harperís hands in his.
"Chrome is dead. I killed him. I donít want to be him." Harper whispered.
"Why, from what Iíve read, what Iíve learned, heís miraculous. Heís intelligent."
"Heís a slave." Harper hissed. "I wonít be a slave again."
"He was not a slave. He never stopped fighting. When he had the chance, he stole the enemyís tech and ran with it. Besides, once claimed by another clan, the slave belongs to the new clan, I think. Give me time. I will find out, but we donít have much time."
"True, once we leave here, thatís it and hopefully Dylan will want to leave soon." Harper leaned back.
"Thatís not what I meant... There was a short Nietzschean, for one of them; he has bronze skin tone with long straight black hair. He also has almond shaped eyes. While we were entering the pride, I saw him stare at you. He said, ĎVery soon, Chrome... Harperí. Iím afraid for you. I want to tell Dylan but I wonít do it behind your back. Tell Tyr soon. Tomorrow morning, we will meet on the ship for our weekly meeting. I will tell them then. It is because you are my shipmate that I will do this. We will all fight. Cobra will not take you back." Maíctor stood up and walked out.
* * *
Maíctor entered the media center and sat down at the first empty station. Head bowed, he started entering his search terms.
In a corner of the media center, Caeilla sat and watched the blue furred alien type. Sometimes he would switch screens as he seemed to look for something. Grabbing the book files she came for, she smiled and walked to the door. The alienís blue ears followed her.
"Caeilla. What do you know of Nietzschean law?"
Caeilla started. "Ummm well depends on what type of law you want to know about. I donít know all of the laws. But what I do know, I can tell you."
"I know that... what do you need to know?"
"A slave of the Cobra clan escaped. He was experimented on before he escaped. He had a piece of tech in his head. He lived for ten years on his own. Met and was claimed by another clan. This clan is small but it is allied with a large clan. A powerful clan. This clan will support the small clan. The slave is valuable, very."
"I see... well what about Cobra clan? Do they know you have the slave?"
"We must assume so. Very smart, Caeilla."
"Itís Harper or Beka isnít it? If it was Trance then we would have heard of her before now and her appearance wouldnít have been such a surprise. The only slave of note to escape and not be stolen from Cobra was Chrome." Caeilla stared at Maíctor. "Chrome was male... they love that since it means they donít have to wait nine months before reusing them for breeding purposes. So itís Harper. Well..."
Maíctor smiled and watched as the little girl nibbled one of her braids. For a moment, she looked like her mother; a shudder ran down his back. Slowly he started twitching and shuddering.
"Caeilla, obey Dylan. He will bring the herd. He will call forth the universe. If you are not careful you will die. For your mother, nothing can be done. She has sealed her fate. She bargains with greater forces than she can command. They are already arming to betray her.
"We must prepare. We must be as one or the Killers will sweep us away. Soon... soon we must find a way to stop them... we must seek the Síthela. They have... have..."
Caeilla ran to the wall and slapped the medical button. In less than a minute a medical team stood in the media center and tried to make Maíctor comfortable as someone tried to find a crewmate.
* * *
Rev stood over Maíctor, in a medical bay, frowning. "Yesss. Well, this is not so simple. Our Maíctor is a Thinker. A subset of the Valu species. Every so often these Thinkers fall into a trance and connect extremely varied inputs. Much like you would solve a puzzle they do as well. Their puzzles are usually missing many of the pieces."
"I see... so basically, he intuits what he feels is missing?"
"Yes, though he knows some of it. We hear everything around us but only listen to what interests us. We still hear it and we still remember it. He will pull this information and make sense of what we cannot. I have learned much of the Divine by watching him."
"We donít believe in a god or the divine but I can understand how you can understand how this universe works by one who works in such mysterious ways." The medic said as he took data from the machines, "Is this normal?"
"Yes, those are normal readings for Valu. He will be fine. We have helped him through this before and likely shall again. To have such a gift is truly great of the Divine."
* * *
Gift. This is no gift. This is a trial. To be driven to distraction, obsessed with something and not knowing what. To be blocked from the truth when I need it most. Damn it, Caeilla needs her mother... she needs a mother. She needs the advice of someone older. Dylan canít be there for her, we need him, we need him to defeat the... the...
The dark closed over him and he slipped into the darkness of healing.
Harper entered the room that he shared with his mate. The shadows on the wall flickered with the candles lit inside. A line of candles led the way to the bedroom. Pressing the door key, it opened to show a bed covered in night sky blue sheets. On the bed lay strips of leather. Harper walked over and carefully caressed them. Smooth and supple, they were almost like the ship suits Dylan had them wear. Under his hand they changed color from a dark black to deep red, a rich green, an ice blue.
Harper jumped when arms went around him. Then quietly melted back into them. "You want to use these on me?"
"If you wouldnít mind." Tyr whispered into his ear. Carefully Tyr wrapped his lips around Harperís ear lobe and bit down, gently at first, then harder. Harper arched as Tyr rubbed one callused thumb over his nipple before pinching it hard through the material of the shirt. "Go into the bathroom and undress. Take some time to wipe yourself down and then return here. Tonight you will not distract me with your touches or your words. When you come back, you will be gagged and tied..."
"Yes, Tyr." Harper walked to the bathroom, he slowly reached up to touch the clear collar. The symbol of love that Tyr gave him. Inside the small Kodiak bear lock was a drop of Tyrís blood, a drop of his essence. A gift that showed everyone how much Tyr valued and loved him. With his hand over the bear, itís heart burned.
Inside the bathroom, on the sink was a soft towel and a bowl of water. Floating on top of the water was an Anastarian Tundra Flower. Smiling at the romantic turn of mind his mate was taking, Harper undressed and carefully wiped himself down. Opening the medicine chest, he took out the lube and started to prepare himself as he thought of how his mate would treat him.
* * *
Tyr smiled as he smoothed the sheets, training his ears on the small sounds from the bathroom; he realizes that his lover has finished preparing himself. Standing up gracefully, Tyr checks the gag to make sure there are no worn or sharp places. Striding over to the doorway, Harper almost runs him down. Tyr looks at his pale mate, shining in the darkness of the room, his own light in the darkness.
"From now on, you only moan, groan, and squeal from behind this." Tyr slipped it over his head and tied it carefully over his mouth. "Go lay on the bed."
Tyr watched as Harper moved to the bed, the candles giving him a healthy glow. Harper sat down and lay back on the bed. His arms at his side, he closed his eyes and waited for Tyr.
Tyr stood at the bedside watching his mate, his husband breathe. Every breath caused his chest to expand with flicker light creating small shadow puppets on his skin. With a feline grace, Tyr knelt at the bedside and carefully traced his loverís lines. His nails danced and weaved over the hills and valleys, the rough pads of his finger dipped into every crevice and indentation. Were he blind, he would know his heartís mate by touch alone. Laying his head on one pale slim thigh, he blew a warm breath across it. The muscle jumped. Chuckling, Tyr stood up and picked up the leather straps. Pulling out one long and two short, Tyr climbed on the bed. Straddling his loverís groin, he laid one strap over his waist.
"Lift up, mine."
Tyr wrapped the thin leather cord around Harperís waist, twice. Nudging Harper to lower himself to the bed, Tyr wrapped one short strip around Harperís wrist. Once tight, he tied it to the cord around Harperís waist. Then he did the same to the other hand. Getting up off the bed, he selected two leathers. He kissed Harperís cheek. "I am going to put two ties on your collar. I am going to tie your collar to the wall. Remember that."
Climbing back on the bed, he leaned over so that his cock rested on the gag, and quickly tied simple loops to the collar and the framework of the bed. Moving back, Tyr nibbled and licked his belovedís neck. Biting hard and holding as the slim body shook under him. Slipping one hand under Harperís back, he trailed his nail down and rested it in the hollow of Harperís back.
Tyr stared at his Harper who shook and tried to press closer. Tyr laughed and leaned down to bite at a cream colored nipple. "You arenít going anywhere and I can take my time. I am not sure whether I should, take my time and sample every little piece of you. Slowly, biting, nipping, sucking, licking, and just enjoying your body or should I spread these slim legs of yours and let you go wild on my cock?"
Tyr turned over and laid his head on the nipple he was just licking. Reaching up, he roughly rolled the other nipple between his thumb and forefinger. Suddenly pinching it hard, he heard Harper gasp and a slow whine start from behind the gag. Laughing, Tyr bit and nibbled his way down to the curly rough hairs surrounding the almost translucent cock. Burrowing his nose into the hair, he smelled the clean and sharp scent of his lover. A scent that drove Tyr wild before and will continue to do so. Turning his head he bit hard, breaking the skin but licking the small trickle of blood away.
He pressed the finger that was tickling his loverís back, down and between the globes of his mateís ass. Tight muscles clenched the finger as Harper opened his legs and wrapped them over Tyrís. Tyr could hear the long whines and sinful whimpers from behind the gag as his lover tried to move him closer. Tyr slowly licked up the long slim cock before swallowing the head. Wrapping his agile tongue around the shaft, he ran it quickly up and down the shaft. Pressing up, pass the tight, oh so very tight, hole of his ass, Tyr let his other fingers, cradle and roll his Harperís balls. With one last long lick, Tyr lifted his head up and pulled Harperís legs from around him.
"You are Seamus Zelazny Harper Anasazi and you belong to me!" Swiftly he entered his mate, and leaned over to bite one nipple. As Harper arced, he squeezed Tyr tight. His cock jerked against his husbandís hard abs, as he came. The orgasm seemed to last forever. His balls felt so light and empty. Smiling a feral grin, flex the muscles in his ass and squeezed Tyr tight. With a last powerful thrust, Tyr came in his man.
Tyr could feel the trembling of his mate; gently he reached up and felt the pulse in his throat before sliding up and nuzzling the milky throat. Biting his manís neck, he loosened the cords holding him. Silently he ran fingers over the reddened parts of Harperís neck before licking them clean. Holding Harper loosely, he swiftly undid the tie holding his hands.
"Harper." Tyr leaned over and took off the gag, kissing his lover before he had time to say anything. "Rest."
"Tyr... that was..."
"Sweet. Now rest."
"Ummm, ok." Harper sprawled bonelessly in Tyrís arms. After he was asleep, Tyr got up and cleaned up the room, wiped down his Harper, and made sure there was no permanent damage. A flash of light drew his eye to Harperís throat. The Kodiak bear choker. "My mate."
Sighing, Tyr climbed into bed next to Harper and slept. Tomorrow was going to be busy.
Dylan entered the main council room to see seven Nietzscheans arranged around an oval table. In the center sat Onnika, flanked to each side by three people. To the left stood a transmission device that was broadcasting the signal throughout the station and on to every planet controlled by the Gryphon Pride.
"Welcome to our Council, Ancestor. I apologize for the length of time before we could convene but several of the members were off the station, attending to their duties." Onnika stood gracefully and bowed deeply. She was dressed in a shimmering silver robe, bound with a gold mesh belt. The buckle of the belt was a gryphon arcing up, holding forth a hand in triumph. "To my left, we have Famira, my closest cousin and Strategic Advisor. Dr. Radli, my Resources Advisor. And Graha, my Military Advisor. To my right, my mother, Talia. Dami, Communications Advisor. And Shade, my Financial Advisor."
Dylan smiled and nodded. "Not a problem. Though I am happy to finally meet all of you. As you know, Iím Dylan Hunt of the Commonwealth Starship Andromeda." Gracefully waving a hand at Beka, he continued, "This is my first officer, Beka Valentine. Also the Captain of the Eureka Maru. Today, I have come here and found a community that I knew nothing about, but who knows a great deal about me. When Raa, my most recent crewman told me about Gryphon Pride, I smiled. I smiled to know that Gaheris was remembered. Not as traitor, not as a hero, but as a father. A title, I know, that he would have been most proud to wear. To know that I have been bestowed this honor, with or without my permission shocks me. If I had known then what I know now, I would have gladly lived my life, being Gaherisí mate, lover, and husband. Thank you, all of Gryphon Pride for remembering him.
"Doubtless many of you have questions, to ask of me and my crew. Right now, the crew is aboard the Andromeda. I have asked them to take their stations, Rommie, the ship; will relay transmissions to and from here to the various crewmembers. So you can ask questions of all my crew at the same time. Before we start, I would like to tell you a little about my crew, while they are setting up.
"The most remarkable in appearance among others is Trance Gemini..."
* * *
Dylan watched in fascination as the questions flew about. This is a good start. The people may be the deciding factor, if this becomes a shooting war. Staring at the images of people from the entire Gryphon domain, Dylan prayed it wouldnít be a shooting war. A young man entered from a concealed door and spoke to one of the counselorís. Recalling that he had been introduced as Dr. Radli. The man frowned.
"Yes, Dr. Radli?"
"I need to talk to you concerning one of your crew. A Valu." He replied. A silence was in the air.
"Is something wrong?" Dylan stood up and headed over to the Council table.
"It seems he collapsed and was taken to the medical bay." He explained.
"I see, was anyone with him?" Dylan asked.
"Caeilla, she alerted the medical staff and your crewman, Rev Bem attended to him." Radli frowned.
"Oh wonderful. I can think of no one better than Rev to deal with this." Dylan smiled and sat back down.
"Ancestor, I know you missed out on 300 years but do you believe that it is wise to leave a Magog, in charge of your crewman?"
"Rev is Wayist... besides, Maíctor doesnít need medical attention, he needs someone to listen to him, to help work it through."
"Work what through, Ancestor?" Radli inquired.
"Maíctor is a Thinker. A special Valu. He takes many tiny bits of information... most that we never concern ourselves with. He doesnít concern himself with it either, but his subconscious does and it pulls the information together and gives us an insight into things we may need to know. It is always preceded by shakes and stuttering. As long as he is kept still and allowed to talk, he will be fine. Who better to counsel him than a Wayist?" Dylan asked carefully.
"This is new, if he will permit it, I would like to study this phenomenon."
"Iím sure Macítor wonít mind, but I need to talk to Caeilla? I need to know what he told her."
"Of course, sheís waiting outside the room. Would you mind if we listened in?" Radli waved a young man to escort the child into the council chamber. Caeilla walked in and stood carefully in front of Dylan.
Dylan smiled and turned to Radli. "No, of course not, we have no secrets from our family."
"Iím not going to hurt you Caeilla. I just need to know what Maíctor said to you. Itís very important."
"Yes, Ancestor." Caeilla took a feet apart stance and looked up at Dylan. "Today, I went to the media center to find some book files necessary for a report. Maíctor came in and started a search on slave law in the database. As I started to leave, he called me over and asked me if I knew about slave law. I told him that I had studied it and I would do my best to answer his questions.
"He then asked me if a slave who:
1) had been experimented on with high tech and had managed to escape;
2) managed to live on their own for ten to twenty years;
3) later joined up with another Nietzschean who had a small pride;
4) then mated to that Nietzschean;
5) who later turned out to be allied to a very large pride;
6) then was discovered by his original owners.
If such a slave fit all these parameters, who would the slave belong to? Could the slave be free? I thought about the question and when I was about to answer, he fell to the floor. I first checked to see if he had passed out and then his pulse. He grabbed my hand and started to talk in a whisper, so soft even my ears had a hard time. He stumbled over his words, like he was thinking too fast to speak."
"He was, you need to stop him and then ask him concise questions. Sorry, continue."
"Yes Ancestor, what I could make out he said ĎListen to Dylan. Heí something Ďfourth universe. If you are not carefulí something else Ďnothing can be done. She has greater forces than she can command. They betray her. Prepare. The Killers come.í That was all I could get, Ancestor."
"That is enough, Caeilla, thank you. While you are here, Raa wondered if you would like to come on board the Andromeda. I think he has a surprise for you."
"I would love to, Ancestor. Is today at 1600 appropriate?"
"I will tell him to expect you then." If the Ďkillersí are the ones behind the Magog, we may have less time than we thought.
Raa sat, engrossed by the text on the screen. I donít believe it. I should, after all she is a Nietzschean but this plan is suicidal, if we let her do this, the Vedrans will destroy Gryphon Pride.
Raa shut down the final trace program. It was enough. Just enough to not only incriminate, but to convict Onnika. Sighing he leaned back and stared at the door, Another twenty minutes and I risk everything on the maturity of a ten year old. Please, dear Ancestors, let Caeilla care more about her people, about their survival, about their ascendancy, about them than she does her mother.
* * *
Beka smiled as she held out her hand to take Caeilla to the Andromeda. Caeilla stood in front of her. Her dark honey hair brushed back and in a tight French braid. She wore a dark red vest over a black shirt, both of which intimated the Commonwealth uniform. She wore dark red leather pants with black ankle boots. She didnít wear many obvious weapons but Beka knew she was armed.
"Yes, Beka, I am." Caeilla held out a small but fine boned hand, her nails were polished with a clear polish and her hand was slightly cool in Bekaís.
Without a smile, she turned her back to her mother who sat at the desk in the far corner.
"Do listen to the Ancestor."
"Of course, Mother."
"Donít worry, Onnika, weíll take good care of her."
"She can take care of herself."
Beka stared at the cold woman and turned away, disgust on her face as she led Caeilla from the room she murmured, "Nietzscheans."
Caeilla looked up at her as they left the room. But Iím A Nietzschean.
* * *
Caeilla watched her people as they passed. Around each there seemed to be a shadow. Instead of heads held high, bright people, they all passed by silently. Eyes forward, head slightly tilted forward and down, they walked liked wraiths and she would have taken them for wraiths but they were solid. Something was wrong. This wasnít the first time she had noticed this.
* * *
A year earlier
Caeilla walked into the laboratory with her assignment. Smiling she approached one of her favorite technicians. She was bent over a display. Caeilla waited to be noticed, her eyes casting around the lab; specs for ancient weapons lay on the desks. Being careful to be unnoticeable, Caeilla read several of the papers lying about. Mixed in with the specs were reports of the Mad Hasturiís journal, old slipstream maps, incomplete plans for nova bombs, old locations for voltarium mines.
"Caei, what are you doing here?!"
"Sala, I need a bit of help on my umm assignment. Didnít want to bother you."
"Itís ok, let me see it?" Sala stood up and lead Ca eilla to the door, reading the assignment as they went.
I wonder why she had all that weapons tech? We specialize in computers and genetic engineering.
* * *
Caeilla stared up at Beka. She has a purpose. Sheís doing something. Something that involves me. Itís just too odd that Mother is having Sala research ancient commonwealth weapons. That a ship of the Commonwealth, which just happens to have my ancestor on board shows up. They refuse to stay anywhere but the ship; and according to the Valu, this Maíctor is some sort of prophet that is very rare but is on the same ship as my ancestor and a man who looks remarkably like my other ancestor, Rhade. This same ship happens to be inhabited by a Magog of the Way. By the last survivor of the Kodiak pride; which happens to have been the keepers of The Ancestorís body. By Chrome who is and was the most hunted slave of the galaxy. By a female of an alien race no one has EVER heard of. By the Heir of Quantum, the single largest space transport agency. And a sentient AI.
This doesnít happen by chance. Thereís a hole here somewhere. I donít know where but there is. The way Beka is acting, it may almost be time to reveal everything. Will I have time to tell Mother? Should I tell her? Or is she the one they are conspiring against.
ĎDo listen to the Ancestor, Caeilla.í Is that her way of hoping to get me out of what sheís doing? Or did she say that so no one would know sheís ready to move.
Caeilla sighed and looked up into shadowy ceiling, I hate politics.
Raa waited, he could hear Beka and Caeilla walking down the decks. In a dash of inspiration, he called out to Rolf. "Rolf?"
"Yes, Raa?" Rolf replied appearing on the screen.
"I need help. If I give you permission can you access my files?"
"Please do so, quickly."
"Very well." Rolfís image froze. "I see, is Dylan aware of this?"
"No, but I must make Caeilla aware of it. Onnika moves too fast. Sheís afraid. She knows that the people are willing and ready to listen to Dylan. As I walked through the station, I noticed it is falling apart. The Gryphon pride, the wondrous pride, descended from Dylan and Rhade is dying. They have become arrogant. They believe that they are somehow better than the rest. This insularity has started to kill them. Youíve seen the data on their birth and death rates, the amount of engineering that must be done to make them able to survive. Every generation more and more!
"What she is planning, what she is planning will make the Fall of the Commonwealth seem to be a mere tiny battle. Rolf, sometimes... I... just wish that Onnika never cloned me and if she hadnít then I-"
"So you want me to betray Mother, Ancestor Rhade?" Caeilla asked quietly
* * *
Beka stopped and looked down at the small child that Raa was pinning his hopes on. Taking a chance on an impulse, Beka knelt down and hugged her for a moment. "Head on down and through that door. Raa wants to talk to you alone. I canít go with you but... just listen to him. Whatever you decide be safe and survive ok, Caeilla?" Standing back up, Beka turned and walked away. She didnít look back.
* * *
Caeilla stood at the door, listening. Whatever could Mother be doing to make Raa do this? Nothing says heís doing it with Dylanís permission and I cannot believe that Dylan is so unaware of his own mateís doing. Yet he just said Dylan wasnít aware of what he was doing. So he must be doing something on the sly. A word just heard pressed itself into her mind, clone. Clone! Then perhaps he does not just look like Rhade. He is Rhade. Ancestor. What in Nietzcheís name is mother doing?!
When we first met something seemed familiar about him. Itís not because of how he looks but I remember him... a room, where he slept in a tube. A tank rimmed with frost. A cloning tank? It was just a couple years ago. I remember going up to the tank and wiping the frost away. Mother almost caught me there. She opened it and looked at him. Then she left. I stared at his face; so young he looked there. Only a little older than me. Then I left, Mother was going to come back and I couldnít be caught there.
Stepping into the room, she took a deep breath. "So you want to betray Mother, Ancestor Rhade?"
* * *
Maíctor stared at Radli puttering away in the med bay. The quiet beeping from his monitor was soothing. Carefully, he reached out to scratch an itch. Not carefully enough for Rev Bem started at the motion. Maíctor stared at him, his eyes pleading for Rev to be quiet. Flickering his eyes to the book reader in Revís hand and flickering them over to the door, he asked his friend to leave. Rev stared wide eyed then nodded and stood up smoothly.
"Dr. Radli, I wonder if you could tell me when heís likely to wake up again?"
"Ahhh not for another hour or two at least. Why?" Radli replied softly.
"I was hoping to go borrow another book film from your excellent library on station." Rev lied smoothly and started walking towards the door. "Perhaps you can suggest a book?" His claws flashed under the lights and distracted the doctor from his patient.
Maíctor took advantage of the momentary distraction to slowly pull the IV from his arm. Pushing the needle into the bed, from a distance it still appeared to be in his arm. Closing his eyes once more, he listened to his death being prepared.
* * *
Trance wandered through the corridors, something down there didnít belong. It wanted to go somewhere else. Moving silently, her tail wrapped around her waist, she frowned at the keypad. Looking at it, she cautiously punched in seven numbers and it opened. Inside the room was dark; a small amount of cold light came from an instrument panel set into the far wall. Slipping into the room, Trance stared. This place was familiar. Sheíd never been here but it looked like someplace she had been told of.
Walking across the room, letting her tail wave slowly. Now she remembered where she had heard about this place. This has to be where Onnika had cloned Raa. If that was so perhaps there was something here that does need to go back to Raa. It seemed most everything was taken. Frowning the purple woman sat on the floor, her tail thumping the instrument panel. A sheaf of papers fell. Smiling, she read the first page, "For Gaheris, we will have two uses."
Yep, those seem to be the papers that wanted to go to Raa. She got up and walked out the room.
"Caeilla! What are you doing spying? Come in." Raa turned to her with a smile.
"I remember you Raa. I remember when you were here. I remember you from when Mother kept you in the other room."
"Do you? I thought you might. You smelled familiar when we met this time."
"Yeah? What are you planning?" Looking at the screen she noticed some information from her Motherís computer. "There are Motherís special files."
"I know. I thought no one was supposed to know how to get in them except your mother and her spies."
"Iím going to be the next Matriarch, she always wants to protect me but I need to know things. I need to know what sheís up to and how it will affect my people during my reign."
"You are a very smart and intelligent young woman. Only ten and already you are thinking of your Pride. Very well, I will tell you what is happening because this will decide, if this pride survives the coming war."
Raa leaned back into the chair and motioned Caeilla to another seat. "Meet Rolf. Heís an AI on the Andromeda Ascendant." With a few clicked keys, Raa brought up the information for Caeilla. "First you have to understand how your mother feels about the Ancestor, Dylan. She hates him and to understand that you have to go back into the history. Three hundred and a few years ago Dylan and Rhade were paired up on a mission to Sigma Sal5, they were to bring a dictator off his world so that he could stand trial. If he refused then they were to kill him. This was their first mission. For this Dylan became Captain of the Andromeda and Rhade was his first mate."
"I know, then they fell in love, then the war... I remember this from class." Caeilla smiled up at Raa.
"Not exactly... you have to listen. Sometimes we only tell part of the truth and that is only part. To continue... Yes, that was when they got together... They fell in love and everything was going ok. They knew... rather Dylan wanted Rhade to take over as Captain when it was time for him to transfer. Rhade was planning to ask to serve under him again.
"You must remember Caeilla that Dylan is human. Yes, his mother was a heavyworlder, but he is still human and he was raised as human. Rhade was one of us. When Dylan fell in love with Sarah, he thought that there was no way for him to love Sarah and Rhade. He believed he had to choose one or the other. He might have chosen Rhade but Rhade, being one of us, told Dylan to be with Sarah. Rhade would never get in the way of Dylan having children. Dylan... it never crossed his mind that he could have kids with Rhade. Otherwise Denalie would have born with those two waiting for her.
"Rhade also knew the Nietzschean Tactical Offensive was coming. For the first time he felt jealousy and triumph. It is one thing to win a championship among us. It was another to give Dylan something even Sarah could not. There was no surety that Sarah would survive. There was no surety either of them would, but he wanted one child out here who still held a part of Dylan, his genes were worth passing on.
"What you donít know yet is what happened at Hephaestus... they fought. Dylan got in a lucky shot and killed the man he loves. He hasnít forgiven himself for that... neither has your mother."
"Why would she hate him for surviving? We are all supposed to strive to survive." Caeilla asked as she leaned closer.
"Because Rhade should have won. He was a Nietzschean. He was genetically engineered to be smarter, faster, stronger than Dylan. He shouldnít have lost. He did. Either love weakened him enough so that he didnít fight hard enough; though to consider love a weakness is wrong. Or Rhade was inferior.
"We are Nietzscheans, you were raised as a Nietzschean. If Dylan won, it meant that Rhadeís Nietzschean genes were weak. If they were weak then so must be yours... and your motherís. She hates Dylan cause he won. Because he either won cause Rhade let him or because Rhadeís genes were weak. She abhors weakness. She refuses to be weak. Dylan is both reminder and proof of weakness, she believes to settle this issue she must lure him, trick him, and kill him." Raa held her closer.
"Betray the Ancestor? How?"
"Easy, she sees it as necessary for the survival of Gryphon but she is leading us to our destruction.
* * *
Maíctor tried to move his legs and arms. They responded quicker than before. He wiggled his toes, ignoring the tightness in his legs. When he could flex every muscle in his legs without a twinge, he started in on his arms. Soon, he was sweating. Radli wonít ignore me for much longer. Onnika needed help with Raaís creation. Who better than a doctor? Onnikaís plans are ill timed. I almost have everything I need to see what she is up to. Almost.
Silently, Maíctor levered himself up and sat on the bed. The only sound of him getting to his feet was a slight thump, but it was more than enough to alert Radli. Maíctor stood up, trying not to tilt or lean. "Radli. I think itís time for me to go."
"I donít think so, Mr. Maíctor." Radli replied, a smile slicing across his narrow face. "You shouldnít have removed the IV. Your death would have been gentle, once I placed it into your line."
"But I donít want to die. Radli, Onnika is making a mistake, there is more here at risk than just Gryphon pride. She will destroy us all if her plans work. Raa told us about what he was designed for. I bet she has been raiding old High Guard stations. What could she be looking for? What did the High Guard have that no one else did? I know she has plans to make Nova Bombs. So then came the question of why? I couldnít figure it out until I thought of a record I had seen aboard the Andromeda. A Vedran from the Imperial Library. The All Systems University Library of Tarn Vedra. So there is a way to Tarn Vedra and Onnika plans to bomb them.
"But if she does then we will fall to the Killers. I canít let that happen."
Raa pulled a chair up for Caeilla, turning the girl so she faced the screen. Raa flipped to the first document he searched, "This is a report on the Vedrans. They are coming back. They have already planted several agents across the known galaxies. Remember when you told Dylan that you liked his slaves and he said we werenít? Well, our people have been educated to believe that since we are using genetic manipulation and breeding tactics that we are the best. It isnít true. We are striving to be the best but we arenít yet. Who are the best bureaucrats?"
"The Perseids." Caeilla threw a glance at him. Raa could almost hear the gears moving.
"The best builders?"
"The best bargainers?"
"And what held them all together?"
"The Commonwealth." She turned and looked up at Raa. "The Vedrans want to reestablish the Commonwealth. Mother doesnít. She wants to fight the Vedrans?"
"Without the ships, without the High Guard. She could. We canít let her, Caeilla. The Vedrans will bring it back. But I canít expect you to betray your mother for no reason or just on my say so. Iím going to see if we can get everyone back here because Caeilla, if we manage to win against your mother, then we will need your support. Come, letís find Dylan."
* * *
Radli leaped for Maíctor. Maíctor leaned to the side. Bringing a fist down on Radliís back, he ducked and grabbed a syringe. "If it had not been for her paranoia, we would have had no warning when we got trapped in a war."
"How stupid do you think the Matriarch is?! We knew that one day someone would mention Gryphon pride and itís ancestors. Someone would connect it and tell that bastard of a Captain of yours. He would have come here expecting to take over Gryphon."
"Why would he take over a dying pride? You are dying because you do not listen. You are dying because Onnika cares only for this pride. Not for all Nietzscheans and when the time comes, Gryphon will be destroyed because she can not see it all!" Maíctor charged the Nietzschean, slipping under the spikes; he forced the needle in over Radliís heart.
Radli shook, his eyes rolling back, with one convulsive jerk he died.
Maíctor opened his hand and read the label. "Ephedrine. Shkemti, your heart burst. Now where to hide you? I think the war has just begun."
Maíctor dragged Radli over to the bed and slipped him between the bed and the wall. Sitting on the bed for a moment and listening to his muscles complain, he got up and walked out softly.
Trance walked down the corridor humming to herself. The papers in her small pack. It was time to show up for a small class in botany. She rather liked the new plants and hoped that Dylan would let her bring some of her class on board. So many of them wanted to see Andromedaís garden. Perhaps sheíll ask Dylan at the meeting.
* * *
Ok, so maybe Nietzscheans arenít all that bad. I could almost get to like this group. Once I got rid of the troublemakers. Didnít think they would listen to me but it pays to be the Nietzscheanís Angel of Death. Bouncing up, Harper turned to the seventeen young men and women who made up his special class.
"You know all of you are here because you proved to me that you can think outside the petty lines and laws that everyone says is true. Well, Dylan was thinking of letting me and the others choose a limited group to tour our specific areas of interest on the Andromeda. He wants the list by the end of the week. The cap is twenty per crewperson. So lucky you, you all get to go! If all goes well, we can have the rest of our lessons on the Andromeda in a week. Now donít all thank me at once. I will remain here to bask in your adoration and to receive your well thought out and offered thanks!" Harper grinned.
The seventeen young people looked around and laughed.
"Yes, oh wise and wonderful Harper of Anasazi and should we offer on your altar cases of shock cola?" A young woman asked.
And Tyr thought it was a bad idea to get them hooked on Shock Cola. HA! Thatíll show him.
* * *
Beka let go of the bar and dropped down. Pushing her hair from her eyes, she looked up at the chrono on the wall.
"So what else do you do on the Andromeda?" Shakul asked.
"Huh? Well, what all first officers do, make sure the ship isnít going to blow up. No, really I work with Rommie to make sure whatever needs fixing gets fixed. Most times Harper can do it but if he needs extra hands all of us will help. Often Trance is in the hydroponics section or med bay keeping up supplies. Tyr is most often exercising or plotting courses that wonít take us through battlefields, finding out who wants what so we can trade to get across sectors. Harper is making sure the Andromedaís fine and heís always finding some little improvements to do, or he works to find new way of blowing up stuff. He and Tyr love working weapons. I make sure we have enough of whatever we need or I find a way to get it." Beka stretched. "I do what is needed. Dylan spends most of his time trying to figure out how to restore the Commonwealth. We leave him to it."
"So you do all the work and he does nothing?" Shakul sneered.
"No, heís finding ways to restore the Commonwealth. One thing we found out when we went to M-86 and saw the Magog worldship; they wonít be destroyed. We..." Beka leaned back, her voice failing, "I sent in a nova bomb. The most vicious, violent, and destructive weapon of the Commonwealth. It should have destroyed the worldship. It didnít. It only weakened them. They are coming and without the Commonwealth, this galaxy will be destroyed. And they are going... to destroy us all. The Spirit of the Abyss wants to destroy us. The Harbingers only want to e..." Beka shook her head, "Sorry. Oh... I have to go see Maíctor. I need to ask him something. Later."
Beka walked off to the showers. Ten minutes later, refreshed, she headed off to the med bay. Shakul watched her.
* * *
At last, everything is in place. Anytime between now and when we leave, I will have 30 people at my back. Onnika is a fool. Does she think that no one else can see her plans or that those plans will bring destruction and death to this Clan? Is she so foolish to think any of us would sacrifice our chances to survive? Tyr walked down the hall. He needed to see his husband. It has been hours since I last heard his chatter. I think I should worry. To be so dependent... ahhh. Ahead of Tyr Harper stood, with his customary slouch. He was walking backwards, talking to his crop of engineers. No trouble with Nietzscheans there apparently. Tyr could hear Harperís joyous voice. The group behind him looked like they were vibrating. Shock Cola. Heís given them even more of that garbage. With a good-natured growl, Tyr headed over to talk to his mate
Caeilla strode down the hallway towards the ship, pulling Raa along behind her. Ahead Raa saw Dylan and he set his feet down.
"Caeilla, I know that you want to see the ship!" Raa laughed, tousling her hair. "Dylan! Hold on, Caeilla. Dylan, she wants to see the ship. Weíll be back in an hour." Raa reached over and brought Dylan closer, kissing him gently. Whispering as he squeezed Dylanís hip, "She has to move fast, get everyone onto the ship now! And any allies they have."
Dylan pulled back, "Ok, love. Iíll get the rest and theyíll give tours, weíll get this over with all at once."
* * *
Dylan turned towards the engineering lab. Knocking once, he opened the door. Watching as Harper directed about ten Nietzscheans about. The young manís spike had fallen, causing his hair to fall in its natural pattern, into his eyes. Reaching one pale, slim, long fingered hand to this hair, he brushed it back.
"Bossman. Whatís up?"
"Nothing much, Harper, just wondering if you wanted to take your group on the special tour you asked me about? I figured Iíd get everyone. You can spend two hours talking to your section, then trade with someone else. We can get this done."
"Sure thing, Bossman." Harper jumped up onto a table and stomped his foot four times. "Hey! Everyone whoís going to tour Andromedaís inner secrets come with me." Harper jumped down, pushed open the door, and stepped out. As he went out, he slapped Dylanís chest. "Thanks to the Bossman."
Dylan raised his hand to the place where Harper slapped him, covering Harperís hand as Harper slipped away. Dylan rubbed his chest and waited for the Nietzscheans to follow Harper out. Once they were gone, he pulled the slip of paper Harper had slipped him.
The three wearing black know nothing about engineering. They are likely Onnikaís plants. I need someone to remove them.
Frowning, he started to look for Beka. Please be by yourself.
* * *
Harper led the silent group to the docking bay. Turning around and walking backwards he spoke to his group, "What? You guys always this silent on an outing? Ask questions? Make statements? Hell annoy each other even. This is just too creepy... I feel like Iím walking a bunch of androids."
"Why are you annoying these men, Harper?"
Harper spun around, "Tyr! Dylan is playing open house. Everyone who wants a turn can do it today. I know that you want to show off all your big... guns. So why donít you get your group? After Iím finished talking about the care and maintenance of the best Galaxy Class High Guard Ship of the line. We can talk about how certain weapons use affect the power supply and gear and such."
"Thatís actually a good idea. Dylan thought of it." Tyr smiled and walked off.
Tyr turned back. "Yes Harper?"
"I love you too!"
* * *
Tyr shook his head as he walked away from his Seamus and looked for an open com portal. Locating one, he contacted the five people he trusted most and told them to meet him at the docking bay so he could show them the weapon systems. All of them agreed and started off towards the bay. They would meet in ten minutes. Now he had to go find Trance and get her to grasp the simple fact that the revolution is happening now. This is the most fun Iíve had since my clan was killed.
Tyr turned right and headed down the hall towards the hydroponics section. Hope the moisture wonít get to my shirt. Frowning, he entered the garden. Eyes flickering left and right, he located a flash of bright lavender. Striding over to the flash, he reached out and gently tugged the purple girlís barbed tail.
"OWWWWWWW! Tyr! Why did you do that?"
"Dylan has invited us to invite our associates to the ship."
"Ok," Trance turned back to the young men and women and started to talk about the virtues of an Acathla tree. Tyr sighed and pulled her tail again. "OWWW! Tyr!"
"Now, Trance. Dylan is not going to let people roam all over his ship day and night. Heís given us permission for now, so now is the best time." Tyr stated.
"All right!" Trance sighed and started into the mysteries of the Acathla. Only to have her tail yanked again. "OWWWWW! What now?!" Trance clutched her tail closer to her.
"If you want to talk about the Acathla tree then why donít you show them the two that we have on board?" Tyr glared at her, hoping that she would finally get it. "Be careful when you take them to see it, allow only those you trust to touch those trees.
Trance opened her mouth to reply and the meaning finally hit her. "Oh ok, Tyr. Everyone, letís go to the Andromeda. Tyr?" Trance turned to ask him something but he was gone.
* * *
Trance bounced down the hall seemingly oblivious to the strange looks she got from the people walking by. Tail waving, she flowed down the corridor. A flash of blue caught her eye, "Everyone keep going to the bay. Be right back."
She ran after the blue that caught her eye and found Maíctor and Beka talking as they walked. Running up she called out for them.
"Trance? Whatís up?" Beka asked with a smile.
"Beka, Maíctor, Dylan said that we can bring whomever we want aboard right now. Tyr insists." Trance nodded and smiled. Winking she turned around and headed back to her group.
* * *
"So it begins Beka. We will win. Gryphon will grow strong. The Commonwealth will be restored." Maíctor stated.
"Great. What do we have to pay though?" Beka asked, leaning against the wall, biting her nail.
"Not us. Dylan. Heís going to lose a daughter." Maíctorís voice was distant.
"Onnika? Caeilla?" Bekaís eyes flicked up and stared at him.
"Both." Maíctor wavered.
"Maíc... are you all right?" Beka reached out to hold him steady
"Yes. I must call my people and have them meet me at the boat bay." Maíctor walked off.
* * *
Dylan grabbed Beka as she walked past. Whirling she crouched into a defensive position.
"Whoa there. Beka, I just..."
"I know. Trance told me. I already got my people to come. Thanks for letting us take them on a tour."
Reaching the boat bay, Dylan smiled at the line of men and women going in. So caught up, he didnít notice Famira approach him. Her smooth silk voice came from behind him. "Ancestor. It seems like you are having quite a few visitors."
"Famira, yes," Dylan turned towards her. "Well, for a while my crew has asked me to allows their... protégés... to go on a tour of the ship. Since today was a washout with Onnika and it was still early, I thought why not. Let them spend a couple hours touring different sections, then they can hand their group off to another crew member so we can get some cross training in."
"I see. Well, as rude as this sound, I would appreciate you letting me know before you take a large number of people into your ship. We wouldnít know where they were if we needed them."
"I see. I should have thought of that." Dylan replied. "I apologize... it was a spur of the moment thing."
"I see. Well, Iím actually surprised that you trust... so many of our people on board your ship. I know... after Rhade..."
"Well Rommie wonít let them in anywhere they shouldnít go."
"Very good." Famira turned to head back down the corridor.
"Why donít you come with us? I have some stuff Iíd like to show you. About your other Ancestor."
"I would be delighted, Ancestor."
* * *
In his rented room at Blue Nineteen, Dzuris Mamba sat staring at the message delivered to him. In Cobra battle language, it read:
Hold. Wait. Right before they leave, find a way to isolate Chrome. Kill him if you must. As long as we have a DNA sample or even his sperm we can kill him. Check to see if he has any children not recorded and if he made a deposit anywhere but with us.
Onnika sat at the keyboard typing furiously, as hard as it seemed, someone had gotten into her spy files. Breathing hard she searched for the location of the terminal that accessed hers. Every lead seemed to reach a dead end until a small chink, a tiny and almost unnoticeable crumb. Seizing onto it like a starving rat, she followed it back to itís home. A terminal in the Visitor sector. Blue nineteen. Calling up the registry she noted who rented the space. Dzuris Mamba of the Cobra Pride. Very well, letís see what Dzuris is up to?
Every word she read only increased her anger. How could I have missed it? If it had been anyone elseís crew besides the barren Ancestorís, I would have found out. The most valuable, the most vital slave in the past hundred years has been on my station for weeks and I didnít know! Taking a deep breath to control her ire, she stared at Dzurisí most recent communiqué. A courier was due to meet with him yesterday.
Well, I guess Iíll just have to get my interrogators on this job. My station, my rules.
* * *
Dylan stood on the bridge and stared at the view of the docking bay. Smiling he turned towards Famira. "Cousin, since the whole point of bringing the students on board is to familiarize them with the standard operations and modifications, I believe it would be good for them to actually see her in a bit of action. Do you think we could get clearance for a quick trip around the solar system? Rommie?"
"Yes, Captain?" Rommie answered.
"How long would it take you to do a run around each planet in this system, one full cycle and a dip as close as possible to the sun?" Dylan grinned.
"About 2 hours Captain. Assuming that you donít want me to hit top speed."
"Nah, cruising speed is fine." Dylan turned back to Famira. "So what do you think?"
"I think your generosity is only overmatched by your innate kindness, Ancestor." Famira stated.
"So like Tyr, you believe me to be too much a High Guard officer. Too giving of myself and Iíll end up killing myself and my crew doing what I believe is right rather than what is best for us? Right?"
Famiraís laughter tickled the walls of the room, "Very well, Ancestor. Make the announcement, Iíll get us clearance."
"Thanks. Rommie, shipwide."
"Of course, Captain. Coms open."
"This is Captain Hunt. Councilor Famira is procuring permission for us to take a soft spin around the solar system. You shouldnít feel much, if any disturbance. As for my crew, well Iím going to send the androids around. Hunt out."
Famira turned towards Dylan, "Ancestor we can leave anytime you are ready."
"Sound the leaving port siren, Rommie, and letís go."
* * *
The knocking was disturbing Onnika. In a fury, she grated out, "Come."
Graha stepped in. "Onnika, we have problems."
"What is it Graha?"
"Radli is dead. And Macítor is not! Also the Andromeda is leaving for a Ďshort soft spin around the solar systemí with Famira on board."
"NO! Who let them leave?" she demanded.
"Thatís not important Onnika! They must know something! After all why else would they kill Radli if they knew nothing?"
"Calm yourself Graha, if they know nothing then we simply call the Andromeda and ask that they return three of the Ďstudentsí we planted. Make up an emergency; their children are in trouble. The Andromeda will turn around and dock again, then we make sure she never lifts again except under our command."
"Yes, Onnika, that will work for now." Graha stomped out of the room and left Onnika to her machinations.
* * *
"Dylan," Rommie called over his implant, "Beagle Station is asking us to return to dock, they claim that some children have been injured and that their parents are on board."
"Did you monitor their emergency frequencies?" Dylan inquired.
"Yes, Dylan. There has been no such report."
"Of course, Captain."
"Enjoying the ride, Famira?"
"Yes," Famira stared at the viewport with wonder. "Iíve been on ships before Ancestor, but never have I seen my solar system look so beautiful.
"Remember it. Itís your home."
"The Nietzscheans, way back when, destroyed most of the Acathla trees because they were one of the rare trees that produced a poison capable of killing a Nietzschean. In fact... oh Styrax, Trey, Amina, and Nuc, could you go with the androids?"
"What androids?" Trey asked.
The door to the hydroponics garden opened. Six of Andromedaís androids stood waiting.
"Iím sorry, but we really donít like spies. And we really donít like it when Onnika decides to bomb Tarn Vedra and put this entire universe in jeopardy, so these androids will take you to the brig. Or you can stay here and we see just how the Acathla tree affects Nietzscheans."
Snarling, the chosen Nietzschean head out with the androids surrounding them.
"Well, now that they are gone, I have bad news about how Onnika is killing Gryphon Pride, not to mention, the entire Nietzschean race and the universe."
* * *
Tyr stood aside to let the people following him enter. "As acting security officer, I am in charge of everything in the armory except the nova bombs. Too bad we donít have any of them now, but we do have these..." Tyr turns and fires two force lances at the five known spies. "Settle down all of you! Listen up; Onnika has betrayed you and your Ancestor. She has put not only the Gryphon Pride at risk but also every Nietzschean in this galaxy. Listen well and decide where you stand.
"I donít plan to die."
The remaining Nietzscheans sat down and listened. Tyr outlined what they knew of Onnikaís plans.
"Either you are with us, or you are dead." By the time Tyr was through those remaining would have swum through space to attack Onnika. Quickly he assigned force lances to those who remained. As they left to change for the battle, Tyr let the androids into the room to clear the five bodies off the floor.
* * *
"Well, everyone I have good news and bad news." Harper yelled out.
His students turned from what they were doing to face him and waited.
"Well, first the good news," Harper pulls out a force lance. "Weíve kidnapped you. Now for the bad news. Onnika plans to kill the entire Gryphon pride. Now if you will all sit down, we can explain everything."
A young man stepped forward. "Ah, Turk, yes. We thought there might have been another spy of Onnikaís here. Now move one step forward and Iíll kill you. I donít suggest anyone help him, wouldnít be a good survival trait." Harper fired a shot near Turk. "Now do me a favor, open the door."
With a force lance in his face, Turk pressed the button to open the door. In stepped Tyr and his group. Smiling Tyr crossed the room, grabbing his loverís neck, he kissed him deep. "Hurry up, Rommie says the Beagle is getting antsy. If these kids are as good as you say they are, we are going to need them." Tyr stroked a thumb over his mateís lip and headed out.
Harper smiled and watched Tyr as he left. Turning around, he noticed his kids smirking. "Enough with the standing around and smiling. Time to get to work. We want this to be a very short battle. We are one ship; if this goes on for a long time weíll be exiles. I donít intend to exile you from your homes."
* * *
"Rommie. Call up the files on Onnika. Famira," Dylan turned to look at his relation. "I know you donít really feel impelled to trust me, know this, I love Rhade. I love him so much Onnika tried to send me a clone of Rhade to tempt me, to use him to destroy me. Seduce me and Iíll do anything for him. It worked except he doesnít want to destroy me; he understands why I must restore the Commonwealth. The Magog are massing on a huge worldship. Itís over twenty planets linked together with some sort of pipeline. There are billions upon billions of Magog in them. And they are coming; we managed to cripple them with our last nova bomb. But whatever is controlling them... absorbed the impact. A nova bomb, Famira. It slowed them down from getting here in a year to making them take two or three years, but they are coming. We canít fight them, not alone. The Commonwealth must be brought back together if we... are to win. Read what Onnika was planning, then tell me how we can win without the Commonwealth."
Famira turned and started reading. With every minute her face grew more and more grave. "Ancestor... this is incredible. But you are right, I have no reason to doubt you, I will read these now. If what you say is true... then Onnika must be stopped and she will not stop unless you kill her. Can you?" Famira replied, her eyes cast down.
"To save my Pride, I can."
"Go fight, Ancestor, let me read." Famira turned from him and started to read again.
* * *
"They are ignoring us, Graha." The comms tech said.
"Very well, fire at them. A warning shot first, she wants the ship." Graha stated as he stared at the ship moving away.
The bridge rocked. Dylan stood up, "Rommie, what is it?"
Famira appeared at his side. "What was that?"
Rommie formed up beside them, "That was Onnikaís idea of a warning shot. Famira, did you tell Onnika that Caeilla was with us when we left?"
"No, of course not. She never forgets a thing. She already knew you were bringing Caeilla aboard. In fact, when I let her know that you were departing, she reminded me to tell Caeilla about dinner tonight." Famira replied looking at the screen, "Can you show a tactical simulation on here?"
"Of course," Rommie brought up a map of the system with what she knew of Beagle. "I see, Dylan we have a huge problem." Rommie stared at her Captain.
"A Nietzscheanís greatest pride and joy comes from their children. Why would a sane Nietzschean threaten their child, their heir?"
"Ancestor, we have done you a disservice. Onnika must be mad! She knows Caeilla is on here and sheís firing. She knows you will not submit. She knows this! She will kill her child." Famira leaned over a console. "Ancestor, I will serve you. Onnika must be removed. Many will die but not as many as will die if she is allowed to continue." Famira knelt and held out her right hand, palm up.
Dylan reached out and grasped her wrist. With a tug, he brought her to her feet. "Thank you, now, we must convince those inside Beagle to fight. How do we do that?"
"Easy, sir. By showing them her madness."
* * *
"This is Captain Dylan Hunt speaking. I know many of you are doing very important jobs. So I ask you to keep working, while you listen. The shock all of you just felt was a Ďwarning shotí fired by Onnika on the Beagle. She fired on this ship, knowing that her daughter, her heir, Caeilla is aboard. From what I do know about Nietzscheans, this is incredible to many of you. In a few moments, you will hear a conversation between me and Onnika below. I intend for all of those on Beagle to Ďoverhearí us. If any of you wish to record a few words for your families, please do. In ten minutes, I begin the war."
Harper rolled out of the conduit. "Hey all of you, stop. Come here. Zygi, stand right here." Harper brought his youngest protégé over and stood him in front of the viewscreen. Setting it up to record, he turned back to the young man. "Say who you are and your message, you have a minute and then its someone elseís turn."
The young men and women lined up for their turns.
* * *
"Yes, Tyr?" Rommie called down.
"My groupís messages have been recorded. Can you release the locks on weapon lockers A-24 to A-29?" Tyr asked, sending the messages to Dylan.
"Yes, good luck."
* * *
Trance faced her group. "Well, right now, all we can do is get sick bay ready for injuries. Anyone who wants to make a message follow me." Trance headed off. Once she got them set up, she told them to stay there and went off to find Raa.
Taking her time she went to Officerís country and stopped before the first officerís quarters. She knocked. The door opened to reveal Caeilla standing there.
"Hey, I found something I think Raa would like to see."
"Very well. How did you know that we were here?" Caeilla asked as she led the way.
"I didnít. I just am very good at finding things." Trance followed. When she saw Raa, she pulled out the piece of writing film. "I thought you might like this. I found it right before we were recalled to the ship."
"Thank you, Trance." Taking the paper he read it. "Where did you find it?"
"In a room, a lot of the machines were dusty and they didnít seem to work. But I think itís where you were made. There were a bunch of tubes, big enough to fit you. Maybe four of them. Somehow I donít think you were the first, maybe the first one that was good for them, but not the first."
* * *
"Captain. Iím detecting a transmission from within the ship. Wait... make that several transmissions. They all lead to one cabin." Andromeda informed him over his implant.
Dylan turned and pressing the implant at the base of his jaw, replied. "Tell Tyr and have him get whoever it is."
"Yes Dylan." Andromeda accessed Tyrís link. "Tyr. Someone is monitoring several locations within the ship. Iíve tracked them down."
"Very well, Andromeda. We will take care of it." Turning to his group, he chose 3 of them to come with him. Angrily he set off.
* * *
Tyr tapped in the override code and waved his three people in. Closing it behind them, he crept over to the next doorway. Three people were in the room. One leaned over the shoulder of one seated, her tail waving.
"Trance." Tyr stepped into the light. "What are you doing?"
"Welcome Tyr. Iím doing my part. I donít want Gryphon Pride to be forever shamed by Onnikaís greed. As soon as Iím finished culling bits and pieces of various conversations, Iím putting it into one packet. Then it shall spread across this sector of space. Perhaps this will help to purge some of the shame from this great clan."
"Tyr... do you love Dylan? Not as a lover but as a good leader, as a brother? Are you ashamed that he is Alpha, or do you see his victories as just another thing to be proud of? If this was your clan, and it is. For Dylan loves you as close a friend as you can be, this is your clan too. Would you dare to let them do this?" Raa stood and walked over. Carefully he lifted Tyrís arm. Crossing their spikes, he leaned in. "Brother you are Kodiak and Gryphon, as much as I am and no better brother can I have than you. No better son can Kodiak or Gryphon have than you."
Tyr wrenched his spikes away, lifting them, he brought them down swiftly.
Tyr caressed his spikes down Raaís face. "Very well. Captain," Tyr pressed the implant. "Itís only Raa, heís putting together a packet of information to send below."
"And you couldnít have told me this before, Raa?"
"No, I didnít come up with it, Caeilla did. Once we realized that Onnika doesnít care thatís sheís up here... Dylan sheís insane and the worst part of it, I donít think itís natural. As heir, Caeilla reviews recordings of previous meetings and examines why and how her mother makes decisions. According to her interpretation, Onnika started acting erratically some three, four years ago.
"Trance Ďfoundí a sheet of paper. She found it in a abandoned cloning lab. Itís not much but it has at the bottom of it a small incomplete list of files. Before we left, I made sure to do my final break-in of Onnikaís computer system. I downloaded a mass of files. Some of which are listed here. So I opened them.
"Of all the things I found on Onnikaís drive, my birth certificate wasnít the one I was looking for. Another file... told of another clone created, Caeilla is a clone of Denalie. Onnika is barren. Itís also why she doesnít care if Caeilla is killed, she can always make another one. Later she tried cloning agin, in fact a couple of clones. She was trying to clone you and Gaheris.
"After several failed attempts to clone you, she gave it up. Then she started again. This is right about the time Caeilla noticed her mother changing. Then you showed up, it was obvious she only needed to create one clone. Me." Raa turned back to the console and opened a new file. Highlighting the date of Ďbirthí on the clone certificate.
" Why would she do this. She gave up on the plan to plant two Ďancestorí clones. She got a new councilor about then. Name of Graha. Only problem is that the only recent Graha I have found went missing some ten years or so ago.
"Now that we know this, what does this mean. Iíll tell you." Raa leaned back and sighed. "Graha is not who he says he is. We are in much more trouble than I thought. And... this is not her fault. She was only as greedy as any other Nietzschean Matriarch. In fact, she in her own way provided for her people. When she discovered that her ovaries had been damaged by intense radiation when she was younger, she chose to clone her own progenitor, a woman of great strength and character to lead her people.
"The madness? What do you expect when a Nietzschean is forced to destroy her own pride and she can not stop it? Itís Graha who did this to her. And who knows what Graha is?"
* * *
Checking to make sure Trance wasnít coming back; he started checking the files. Slowly he searched for tissue and blood samples. Finding the location of the last samples taken, he cleared the screen and got up. Walking over to the storage bin, he retrieved two of each. Pulling a small cold case, he slipped them in. Placing them in a small pouch on the inside of his vest, he walked off.
Harper checked everything one last time. According to Tyr, Raa was able to keep one small line connected to the Beagleís main computer. Staring at the three he chose, he smiled. "Well, Iíll see you three in a second."
Harper watched as his top three engineers jacked into the Beagle. Sighing, he slipped the jack in and fell back.
"Hey guys, letís hurry this up and get back to our bodies. I want this damn war over with so that I can do the sex thing." Harper laughed and opened the first file. It was time to trash Onnikaís plans.
* * *
Onnika stared at her computers as they tried to tell her that they were all dead of radiation poisoning and that it was a balmy 62 degrees at the same time. Screaming, she leaned over her console. "Fire, I want the Andromeda blown out of my space!"
"But Mistress, the Ancestor..." The main fire control tech hesitated.
"I donít care about the damned Ancestor, Iíll make another Dylan just like I made a Rhade." Onnika strode over to the tech and threw him out of his seat. Leaning over the console, she fired two missiles at Andromeda. Both impacted. Grinning, she opened two special ports on the Beagleís outer surface.
"Iíll kill you, Ancestor. Come a little closer and Iíll show you how to use a Nova bomb." Onnika snarled
Behind her several of her fire crew gathered together.
* * *
"Rommie open a channel to Onnika and to the Beagle." Dylan shouted.
"Yes, Captain." Rommie hesitated. "Channel open."
"Onnika! Stop this now. I know you have modified the ports to fire Nova bombs but do you realize that if you use one of them on us, it will kill everyone within this solar system. Including your daughter."
Onnika appeared on the screen. "I can create another. Iíve modified these bombs, they are neater, surgicial weapons. You will land and give the ship to me."
"I canít do that Onnika. Rommie and I have a mission to make sure the Magog never take over this galaxy or any other."
"Then die, Ancestor." She sneered and cut the transmission. Snarling she reached for the firing control.
* * *
"Tyr, we have trouble. Onnika has just opened two ports on the Beagleís outer surface. They are different than most. These have been modified to fire surface to air Nova bombs. Tyr, if she uses that on us, it will destroy this system, the Beagle, and Andromeda." Maíctor said over the intercom. "Tyr, she is not sane. This, as Harper would say, so does not act Nietzy. We canít out run it. And we just recorded three slipstream portals opening up behind us. Weíre in trouble."
Tyr growled. Waving to his three, he ran for the boat bays. "Andromeda, do we have any fighters ready?"
"Yes Tyr, but they donít know how to fly them." Rommie appeared next to him.
"They only need to know forward, back, right, left, and fire. I refuse to let them shoot at our back." Turning to his recruits, he grinned. "Letís go!
* * *
Dylan watched as four fighters launched. They were the only ones they could spare for this fight. If they lost...
"Do we even have a chance? Should we just give up?"
"Captain, not only do we have a chance but we will win. Those ships come closer, Iím getting identification now... and I think Tyr is in for a surprise when he gets there. Those ships are from Tazenda. They are High Guard."
Beka laughed as she swung the Andromeda around for an attack, "YEEEHAAAA!"
A shot melted the controls on the console under Onnikaís fingertips. Growling she turned to see the crew of the Control Room pointing guns at her.
"I am your Matriarch!"
"Not any more, Onnika. You would use Nova Bombs against the Ancestor, knowing that they will destroy all of us! We donít know what drove you mad Onnika but it stops now." The young tech that had melted the control panel moved forward. "Donít make us kill you."
Onnika launched herself at the tech, for a moment there was nothing but sounds of fighting and biting before the tech managed to get Onnika down.
No one except Onnika noticed when Graha sneaked out.
"YOU PROMISED ME!!!!!"
* * *
Graha left the control room and headed down the hall. Walking past corridors with people dead and dying, he passed by a school room with less than ten children, four of whom were dead but that didnít matter to him, it could have been a hundred or a thousand children and he still wouldnít have cared. He entered the closest airlock and closed it. A minute later, the outer lock opened. Graha, who had really been dead for almost a decade, died again. A green light pored out of him and into the silence of space, away from Space Station Beagle.
Soon Kaeg, bounty hunter and its servant joined it and they left.
* * *
Tyr stared at the ships hovering in front of him. Laughing he opened up his com system. "Tyr to Tazenda High Guard. Welcome to the fight."
Telemachus Rhade appeared on Tyrís screen. "Tyr. The space station is the target?"
"Yes. We cannot destroy it; we are trying to preserve lives. Itís Dylanís clan."
Telemachusí head jerked up from reading his display. "How?"
"Apparently Rhade made sure that his and Dylanís genetic information would live on... now letís go save the Gryphon Pride."
"Of course, Tyr. The rest of the fleet can catch up to us."
* * *
Harper stared at the recently hacked file. I donít believe it. She may have been mad but she found it. She found it! Damn.
Turning he called his group together. "Ok, according to the Beagle systems, we have a bunch of Hugh Guard ships coming in. Probably from Tazenda so we are cool. Right now, lock everything up like I told you and we are out of here!"
Harper made sure every last one of his crew was back before getting himself out.
Must be that leadership thing I heard about.
* * *
"Restrain her!" A missile control tech walked over to the com systems and opened a frequency to the Andromeda. "Andromeda Ascendant, this is Missile Control Fire Technician Lian. We surrender to the Ancestor. Onnika has been restrained. I repeat, Andromeda Ascendant, this is Missile Control Fire Technician Lian. We surrender to the Ancestor. Onnika has been restrained. We await you, Ancestor."
Dylan stared over the bodies.
"Rommie, how many dead?"
"114. Over 300 injured. Dylan, you canít blame yourself. Onnika is mad."
"I know, but theyíre mine. I know that theyíre not my children but they feel like they are. They may not be related to me by blood but they are mine. And I killed them."
They watched as each body was tagged and prepared for burial. They didnít notice Tyr, Harper, and Maíctor coming up behind them.
"Hunt, so there are some dead, itís better than them all dead. If Onnika had remained in power, they would not. Harper tell him." Tyr snapped.
"Well, we found Graha, heís drifting on the far side. Onnika was very suspicious because she has cameras in the airlocks. We have a good picture of what happened. Umm... where is it?" Harper opened pockets and patches searching.
"Here use mine," Maíctor handed Dylan a small view pad. "As Graha decompressed something oozed out of him. Itís green. Remember we have met Yellow, Red, and Violet. I believe they are the ones who are the real threat."
"Wonderful, how are we supposed to handle them, Maíctor?"
"Well, I donít know, maybe the Vedrans do. They are the oldest race around." Maíctor pointed out.
"Except we canít reach the Vedrans." Rommie replied.
"Well..." Harper turned to the Captain, "what if I told you Onnika found another way to Tarn Vedra. She may be insane but she had good people working for her. Anyone wants to go for a trip?"
* * *
Dzuris faced the young Nietzschean. "Do you have it?"
"Yes, sir. I retrieved it from the medical stores on board. It is Harperís." He whispered.
"Good." Dzuris shot the young man and placed him in an out of the way place. Another dead would not be remarked upon. It was time to go. No point in overstaying his welcome. One day Chrome you will return to your rightful masters, the Cobras.
* * *
Telemachus was happy to see Beka again. She was a good woman. Wide hips, tough. She would make a good wife if only she was Nietzschean. He was so busy watching her walk that he didnít notice when she stopped.
"Itíll never happen understand?" Beka started off again.
Oh well there was always Dylan. He wasnít just a friend.
* * *
Telemachus could almost smell Dylan. Confidently he stepped on the bridge but there was no Dylan. Just Rev Bem and a young man. A very familiar young man. Smiling he walked over to him.
"Hello, Telemachus. I know that Rommie said you looked like Gaheris but I didnít expect you to look this much like him. Iím Gavain Raa- Rhade. Onnika, who was Matriarch of the Gryphon Pride created me to destroy Dylan. Instead Dylan and I destroyed her. You look sensible, so how about you accept the fact that you lost Dylan and heís mine. Ok?" Raa turned away and waked off the bridge.
"Well, have you two finished snapping at each other?" Beka asked.
I canít win. If I believed in Karma, Iíd kill Gaheris before he cursed me with this. "Fine."
* * *
Raa stormed into their room and looked around for Dylan. "Dylan!"
"Here." Dylan came out of the bathroom, drying his hair. "Hey love."
Raa tackled him. Kissing him, Raa led him over to the bed. Raa pushed Dylan back, "I love you. I really love you."
"I know, Gavain, I know." Dylan kissed his neck, running his nail down Gavainís back. "I know! Want to hear something wonderful?"
"Ummm you love me?" Gavain laughed and kissed Dylan.
"Yes but thatís not it. If Caeilla is a clone of Denalie then we have a chance to see her grow up. You arenít Gaheris but sheís your daughter too. Sheís ours and I wonder if she would mind donating a couple of eggs to us later... maybe we can give her a sister or a couple of brothers?"
Gavain stared at him. "Yes..." Pulling back from his kiss, Gavain whispered, "Oh and Iím not sharing you with that Telemachus. Youíre mine."
* * *
Harper lay in bed; he loved the feeling of Tyr stroking his stomach. The soft fingers almost tickled him but were always careful not to. Sighing he lifted Tyrís hand to his lips and kissed it.
"Yes?" Tyr pulled Harper closer.
"When I was in Onnikaís main computer, I decrypted a whole bunch of files. One of those explained how to make a kid for two guys. How they made Denalie. I jacked it and later downloaded it." Harper reached up over the bed to hold up a sheet of thick plastic with a small microchip in it. "After we win, what do you think about coming back here, having a few kids? Maybe restart the Kodiak pride?"
Tyr lifted himself up and lay on his Harper. "Yes."
* * *
Maíctor stood staring out the viewport at the Gryphon Space Station Beagle. It was covered in High Guard ships. Frowning, he waited. Soon Trance appeared.
"Hey." She leaned against the window next to him.
"I like your fur. I thought we could grow it purple like our skin."
ĎYeah, well it took a while. You really like it?"
"Yeah, itís cool but your tail."
"Well... itíll grow back. Have you told them what you are?"
"Nope, they donít need to know."
"Ok, why donít we get something to eat, cousin?"