Disclaimer: If I owned Andromeda, or even Andromeda's characters, or even just Rhade (*swoon*) do you really think I'd be writing fanfiction about it?

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      What is it with me and Nietzscheans? They're pompous, arrogant, selfish, and generally despicable backstabbing bastards. I hate them all.

      Or at least, that's what I'd like to think.

      First there was Tyr. Tyr Anasazi, that is, the single surviving member of the Kodiak Pride. We met because Gerentex the crazy Nightsider hired him and his crew of mercenaries to help us pull the Andromeda out of the black hole. He absolutely captivated me, for some obscure reason; maybe it was the presence he seemed to carry around with him like some king's fancy fur-trimmed robe. Or maybe it was the aura he radiated, of being so much better than everyone else in his Nietzschean-ness. He stayed with us on the Andromeda for a while, even though I suppose he didn't really work well with the rest of the crew; he had a sort of quiet disdain for us.

      Then, of course, he betrayed us, chased us through the Route of Ages, and fell into the Abyss.

      Now there's Rhade. Telemachus Rhade, who is apparently a direct descendent of the guy who got Dylan stranded in a black hole three hundred years ago. We met him when we found his ship under attack by some other Nietzscheans. Since the prices on our heads are one thing we have in common, Rhade has joined our crew, and by some unspoken agreement (well, Harper explained it to me in private, but since it was Harper it doesn't count) he is now my partner in crime, for the most part. (Harper likes to call us the "wonder twins". Remind me to shove something electric down his neural interface sometime.)

      Rhade captivates me too, but in a different way than Tyr did. Well, I could hardly expect him to captivate me in the same way; especially seeing how they're just about polar opposites. Rhade is quiet, yet very... potent, I guess. He isn't aggressive, whereas Tyr was in your face. Yet Rhade's been places, and he's picked up some pretty useful skills and habits. For example, I've never seen Tyr pilot the Andromeda through slipstream. And Rhade has plants in his quarters. Tyr wouldn't have been caught dead with plants in his quarters.

      I don't really know what it is about Rhade, but I have to say I think the two of us work well together. Or we used to. After the, uh, incident with the bio armor, when I attacked him, he doesn't trust me as much as he did before. With good reason, I guess. But for some reason or another, I trust Rhade more than I trust anyone else on the ship (even Harper, who I've known for a while). After all, he's the only one on board the Andromeda that I've told about my mother. Granted, it was an accident that he found out in the first place (damn you, Aleiss!) but I didn't have to give him the details. And anyway, I always feel safer if I know Rhade's got my back.

      Why? Seriously, what is it with me and Nietzscheans? Have I got some sort of Nietzschean obsession disorder or something?

      It kind of makes me wish that Rev was still with us. I could talk to him about anything, and he'd always listen and give me his advice. I suppose if I really wanted to I could talk to Trance, but ever since we went through the Route of Ages, I feel like I don't know her anymore. Though, if anyone could give me advice on what to do about Rhade, it would be Trance.

      Hmph. For goodness' sake, I'm Beka Valentine. I don't need advice from a pretty gold alien. I can deal with my own issues by myself.

      But if I'm that great, why do I sound like a five-year-old kid?

      I'm distracting myself. I should be thinking about my problem with Rhade. Hmmm. Rhade. You know, it's odd that he's so willing to work with humans aboard the Andromeda. Maybe it's because he was raised on Tarazed. I think Nietzscheans there are more lenient toward the human species, even though we're genetically inferior. Of course, him being a Nietzschean means that he's likely to wander off on his own someday to find someone who can suitably fulfill his Nietzschean life. I wonder who's going to get the honor of being Mrs. Rhade? No, Beka. Don't go there.

      That's it. I'm talking to Trance.

      Rommie says she's in hydroponics. That's not surprising, since Trance is always there. She loves the plants, just like Rhade does. I've seen them talking about Trance's bonsai; she seems delighted that there's someone she can talk with about her plants. That's something else I find interesting about Rhade. He has a broad knowledge of conversation topics. I wonder if that's something that comes naturally for Nietzscheans, like physical fitness and good reflexes? The Divine knows that they're good at just about everything else.

      The corridors are very quiet today. There aren't even any bots around; Rommie's probably running a system check or something. It's a shame that it's a fairly long walk to hydroponics. I wouldn't mind a little mechanical company today.

      Speaking of company... I hear footsteps behind me. Who's coming?

      Oh, no.

      "Hello, Rhade."

      He comes up next to me and we walk together. I can tell he's sort of surprised to see me here, even though he, like the rest of his species, is pretty good at hiding his emotions. "Hello, Beka. I didn't expect to see you here."

      For some reason I feel guilty, like I need to explain to him why I'm here. But I can't do that; I'd really rather not spill all my secrets to him, even if I do trust him a lot. I especially won't spill this to him. I couldn't possibly tell him that I think I have some sort of Nietzschean obsession disorder! So then what do I say? "I'm looking for Trance; I need to ask her about something. Rommie says she's in hydroponics."

      Rhade nods. "I'm heading that way myself." He's a man of few words, Rhade is. I guess that's another well-developed Nietzschean trait. That original genetic engineer must have known what he was doing if he could find a way to make Nietzscheans capable of being good conversationalists while still saying only what needs to be said.

      "I guess we can walk together for a while," I say. "Get in some bonding time, you know?" Oh, no, Beka. Why did I have to say that? He'll probably think I'm an utter freak. Maybe he already does. Oh, for the Divine's sake, why do I have to be so bad at talking to men?

      Rhade grunts in a noncommittal sort of way. I don't blame him.

      I can't help but curse my lack of conversation topics. This is so damn awkward! Rhade's the one who's so good at this sort of thing. Why isn't he talking? What's wrong with him today, anyway? He usually isn't this uptight. Most of the time we can talk to each other, like when Dylan sends us out in the Maru to do all the dirty work. We can talk about things then; what's so different about right now? Then again, what am I expecting? Rhade isn't going to ask me to stop by for drinks later this evening. So if he won't start a conversation, I guess I'll just have to.

      Which brings me back to the problem of what to talk about. It's useless to ask him where he's going; if he didn't tell me himself, I'd never get it out of him unless I was to beat it out of him. Hmmm. For some reason, that thought gives me a warm, glowing feeling. Could it be because I know I'm the only one who can kick Rhade's ass, using only an axe? That could be. There really aren't many humans who can say they've kicked a Nietzschean's ass.

      "While I'm thinking of it," Rhade says suddenly, "I talked to Dylan not too long ago and he said he'd like everyone to report to Command at the beginning of second shift. I would appreciate it if you could tell Trance. And this is where we part ways." He turns into another corridor and walks off without looking back.

      I really don't get what it is with Nietzscheans.

      And I also don't get why I find them so fascinating.

      Thank the Divine that hydroponics isn't far now. I really need to find Trance, pronto. Meeting Dylan at the beginning of second shift means I have less than half an hour to talk with Trance before we have to be at Command. Why did Dylan have to pick such an inconvenient time?

      And now, finally, I'm at hydroponics. And there's Trance, all according to plan. What little plan there is. Argh! I'm starting to drive myself crazy. Thank goodness Trance is coming over to me.

      "Hello, Beka," she says, setting one of her random plants on a shelf near the door and smiling at me.

      "Say, Trance, I've been looking for you." She gives me a curious look. "I know I don't usually do this, but I need some advice."

      Trance doesn't say anything, but gives me her little smile again and motions for me to follow her. She leads me over to a workbench where she has several plants sitting out. I pull up a stool as she begins to prune a tiny bush. "This is about Rhade, isn't it?" she asks without looking at me.

      Whenever she says something like this, it always makes me wonder who or what Trance really is. Is she psychic or something? I guess she's the only one who really knows, and she's not telling. I turn away and examine the basketball hoop that occupies a part of hydroponics, trying not to look at Trance. "Yeah, it is. How'd you know that?"

      "I've noticed the way you look at him recently, as if he were a puzzle you have to solve." She glances at me, then back at her bush. "Why don't you tell me what you're thinking, and I'll try to help you as best I can."

      She makes it sound so easy. Where the hell am I supposed to start? What am I supposed to say? I came to Trance in the first place because she's pretty easy to talk to, and she's usually helpful. So why do I feel like my mind is tied in knots? "Well, uh... I've been thinking about him a lot. You know, thinking about how we met him and everything we've done together. About how I trust him a lot; I dunno why, but I've told him a bunch of things I usually prefer to keep secret. And every time I'm with him when we're not on a mission I feel like we have these really awkward conversations, but when it is just the two of us and the Maru, we get along so well. I dunno what's happening."

      Trance turns to me and gives me a long, measuring look. Her little smile makes another appearance and she says, "Haven't you guessed, Beka?"

      Haven't I -? What the hell does the little gold thing think I've been doing? Making loads of wild guesses, that's what! "I've made lots of guesses, Trance," I say, my voice as dry as I can make it. "What I need is an answer."

      She laughs a little, and prunes away a few more leaves from her bush, as though she's trying to collect her thoughts. I can't help but frown. I didn't come here to play games! I want to get everything figured out, and Trance is only making me more confused! This isn't helping. I try not to tap my fingers impatiently on the workbench as I wait for Trance to enlighten me.

      "You're in love," Trance says.

      Whoa. Wait a minute. What?

      She thinks I'm in love. No, no, no, I'm not. Am I?

      Maybe I am.

      A bit belatedly, I realize I probably ought to shut my mouth, which is hanging open in a way that's probably making me look ridiculous. Well, it's quite appropriate. I feel ridiculous. I should have been able to figure that out by myself. Then again, I don't remember ever feeling this way before, so how was I supposed to know? And I never had a – mother – or anyone else to talk to me about love, so I think I'm very uninformed. Wow. It's amazing how silly and confused I feel right now.

      A hologram of Rommie appears off to my left. "Sorry to interrupt your little talk, but Dylan wants to see everyone in Command in five minutes. He's received a message from the Drago-Kazov Pride and he would like to review it with the crew." Holo-Rommie turns to look at me. "He says you should be ready to pilot though slipstream, since we'll probably be taking a trip back to Earth." She blinks out again.

      Trance picks up her miniature bush and carries it over to a shelf across the room. When she comes back, she starts clearing clipped leaves off the workbench and says, "We shouldn't keep Dylan waiting. I hope I've been helpful." She smiles at me again and walks out of the room.

      I have to be in Command in five minutes. That means seeing Rhade there. I'm going to have to try my very hardest not to make a fool of myself in front of the rest of the crew. I can't possibly avoid them all, since Dylan wants me there so I can pilot through slipstream. And once we get to Earth –

      Once we get to Earth, if I'm lucky, it may be just me and Rhade and the Maru. And even though part of me is confused and wants to avoid him, the rest of me is kind of looking forward to it. After all, that's when we get along the best, isn't it? And I think I need some time alone with him to get things straightened out between us. And after that – well, who knows? It can't get any worse from here.

      I stand up and make my way out of hydroponics. Trance was right, I guess. We shouldn't keep Dylan waiting.

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Note: Just in case you were confused, Harper's neural interface is the metal thing on his neck that lets him jack into Rommie's system. I had to do some heavy research to find that out.