In order to survive we must learn from our past, simply deal with the present, and hope for the future.
~Wilkins, Justin Rhodes
"Laser mind probes?" Beka Valentine asked, following Harper down the corridors of Tarazed's main government headquarters. Behind them, Tyr walked silently, observing the conversation with little interest. His eyes seemed more focused on the two High Guard clothed sentinels tailing them a few meters back.
"I don't know," Harper replied, a suspicious look still plastered across his face. "But you've gotta admit that I was right on the ship… any and almost every High Guard remnant we've found that can walk and talk has gone psycho on us in one way or another."
"I get where you're coming from, Harper," Beka said, trying to put on a little Dylan Hunt optimism, "but maybe this time it'll be different."
Shaking his head, the engineer just shrugged. "Maybe, but I wouldn't be surprised if we end up in some kind of fire fight at the end of the day."
"Pessimist," Beka teased.
"No, I just prefer realist," he grinned back.
Naturally, Tyr decided not to comment.
Twenty minutes later, the famished pair found themselves inside a small café within the city. They'd lost Tyr along the way, but neither cared much about trying to find him. If the Nietzschean wanted to be alone, so be it. After finishing their lunch they headed back to see find out how Dylan's meeting with the council had gone. The two had only been walking for a few minutes when Beka stopped, pointing to a large building of some kind.
"Looks like some kind of library," she said, eying the structure with curiosity. "Wanna check it out?"
"You want to look at actual books?" he joked, trying to avoid a swat aimed his way.
"I'll have you know that I used to read all the time when I was kid, but I just haven't had a chance lately."
"What made you stop?" he asked.
Grinning, Beka laughed. "I met you and well, things never got any slower after that. Come on, Seamus, I'm going in. Maybe they have a gift shop you can look in."
With a groan, the shorter man followed Beka inside the huge building. He had to admit though, once he was inside, the place was stunning. Shelves of endless shelves lined the entire open area, with old tables strategically placed throughout the room. Before he knew it, Beka had left him and he found himself alone amongst a stack of ancient books. Although there were more modern forms of reading, Seamus still found it surprising that people still enjoyed the paper bound versions. Running a finger down the spine of the books as he walked down the long passage of shelves, Harper let his concentration drift. Had he been paying attention, he could have avoided the head-on collision with another browser.
A shriek of surprise was the only thing he heard as they hit. The books gathered in other's arms went flying like AP missiles and Harper fell backwards as well, landing hard. Glancing up, he found himself sprawled on the ground, books, papers, and flexies raining down above him. Rubbing the sore spot on his head where a rather heavy volume of something had hit, Harper looked up to meet the startled, embarrassed face of a young woman.
"Sorry!" both blurted at the same time, thought they soon found themselves laughing at the sight of themselves. Books and other papers were covering them like a blanket.
"Here," Seamus said, finally helping her up, "let me help."
Both spent several minutes picking up the load of fallen reading material and placing them into a pile. Really looking at the woman this time, Harper found himself opened mouthed. While there were diminutive differences, the young female was the spitting image of Cecily Mikita.
A hand on his shoulder pulled him from his brief glance and he found a pair of dark eyes staring at him. "Are you okay?" the woman asked, pushing her claret tinted hair out of her eyes.
"Uh," he stammered for a moment before composing himself. "Yeah, ah, I think so."
"Sorry about that," she apologized again. "I wasn't looking where I was going and well, those books blocking my view weren't helping very much. Are you sure you're okay? You look a little… pale."
Shaking it off, Harper smiled. "Nah, really, it's okay. You just, remind me of someone. That's all." Noticing she was beginning to pick up the books again, Harper moved to help her. "Were you going to check out or sit down?"
"Sit down actually," she answered, pointing towards a nearby empty table. "That looks like a good spot if you'd help me."
Once he's helped her move her things, he stuck out his hand with a smile and introduced himself.
"Nice to meet you Harper," she said, matching his smile. "I'm Belle Olio."
After a few more moments of small talk, she offered him a seat and he took it, figuring Beka would be occupied for a while at least. As she spoke quietly about her studies at the planet's version of a High Guard academy, he couldn't help but get a feeling of déjà vu all over again. When she stopped talking, Belle seemed to notice he was simply staring at her.
"What?" she asked, mentally wondering if she had something on her face he wasn't telling her about.
"Nothing," he answered quickly, but added, "you just… remind me of someone. The name Cecily Mikita wouldn't ring a bell to you would it?"
Seeming started at his question, Belle frowned. "Yes actually, quite well. She was my great, great… erm, you get the picture… grandmother. How did you know that?"
Thinking quickly, the only thing he could come up with was, "Ah, just from old records and stuff. I'm sort of an ancient High Guard buff if you will. Her face must have come up or something…"
Fidgeting in his seat, Harper relaxed when he saw her smile. "Well, Cecily was pretty famous back then. One of the old Commonwealth's best astrophysicists and engineers…. at least, she would have been officially, given time. She hadn't even graduated from the academy when the Nietzscheans first attacked."
Something seemed to dawn on Harper as he listened to her words and remembered what Dylan has said about the Tarazed: Survivors of the Commonwealth, including those from the Andromeda's original crew, had formed it.
"It was pure luck that she survived," Belle went on with the story, "she was actually aboard a ship observing when the first attacks came. The vessel was lost and frozen by a blackhole, but she and the crew, for the most part, were saved."
"Yeah, I've heard that story somewhere," Harper said, trying not to grin, and urged her to continue.
"She joined up with Sarah Reilly sometime later and helped form Tarazed into what it is today. With her help it was built and maintained. It's still here, so she did pretty well I'd say."
"Yeah," the engineer agreed quietly, realizing one of fate's decisive movements in his own universe.
"Actually, we just received news that the actual ship Cecily escaped from is finally come back," she said, excitement evident in her voice. "Can you believe it? An original High Guard ship!"
"How odd," Harper said coolly, trying not to smile too hard. It really wasn't her fault didn't know who he was.
Wondering if Belle would be impressed at all by his status on the Andromeda Ascendant, Harper leaned forward but a hand suddenly taped him on the back. Turning, Seamus found Beka standing behind him, arms wrapped about her chest.
"I can see that you're having a nice conversation, Harper, and I don't mean to be rude here, but we really have to get back, remember?" Noticing the girl, Beka nodded a hello but turned back to the other blond.
"Yeah, I'm coming," he muttered as he stood. Looking back at the girl he smiled. "It was nice meeting you, Belle. Sorry again about the books."
"No problem," she answered. "It was nice talking to you."
Harper would have kept talking but a yank on the back of his shirt, courtesy of Beka, changed his mind. He gave a final goodbye and wave. "Maybe I'll see ya around sometime!" he called as his friend pulled him towards the exit.
When they were finally outside and heading towards the ship again, the captain finally laughed.
"What happened to your theory that all High Guard leftovers were nuts?" she asked.
"I didn't say that… and anyway, I was referring to the ships," he muttered, but his friend just smiled.
"Sure, Harper, whatever you say." The two walked silently for a few minutes before Beka finally asked, "So what were you two talking about anyway?"
"Nothing much," Harper answered casually, but let his mind drift, remembering the others. Not his friends aboard the ship, but the ones who had died to protect him. He hadn't really been thinking much of his nightlong journey nearly three months ago —he'd been a little preoccupied by the Magog attack and the bundles of joyless larvae currently residing inside of him— but he couldn't get them out of his mind now.
Seamus took a quick glance over at Beka walking next jto him, totally unaware of how things could have turned out. How worse things could have been for them all, or how much better. The possibilities were endless really. A reality's fate could be determined by one birth or one death. One moment of time that could change… everything. A few weeks after it had happened he'd told his friends about his experience. (If they believed was another story.) Still, they would never truly understand.
Unconsciously, Harper reached down to touch his stomach, sensing the monsters inside him. It was ironic that he'd been able to help his entire reality, yet not himself. An ugly, painful death was in store for him if a cure was not found. He tried not to think about it mostly, but sometimes he couldn't prevent it. He was not used to being so helpless.
As Seamus walked, a thought hit him for the first time: If he were to die in the coming months, would that be the one decisive moment to change his galaxy… his universe… his reality?
Tightening the grip on his stomach, the blonde engineer sighed. For all it was worth, he hoped not. And for the sake of the universe… he hoped not.
Whether you're reading this days after it was posted or a year from now, please leave a review. Remember, feedback is the breakfast of champions. Plus, I really like getting those emails that say [FanFiction.Net] Review Alert!
And to everyone else who took the time to leave comments, I know, I know, I can't give you those thirty seconds back… but they really meant a lot to me. You guys rock, Andromeda rocks, fanfiction rocks… basically a lot of things rock in my book. But you all are top on my list. Erm, except for Gordon AI, who threatened to shoot me for offing Trance. :D I think I'm one of the few Andromeda writers who can claim to have killed off every major character in one way or another. Go me.
In a review someone mentioned that Harper didn't have the remote for the mirror. For anyone not "in the know" about the SG-1 universe (which you should be so go watch it), the mirror will stay connected to the original reality as long as it's not turned off. Harper didn't need the remote because the mirror remained on throughout the night.