I know, I know . . . it's about dang time, right? I won't waste your time with excuses, but just to justify myself, I actually had this done a while ago and was too lazy to edit it or post it. I'm really, really sorry. Thanks so much to prin69 for reviewing so much and making me realize I had to post sooner or later.
So as you've probably figured out by now, obviously I'm pretending for the sake of this story that Season 4 ended differently (I think I'll get into that later) and Season 5 is nonexistent. I think that makes it an AU fic. Whatever. Bear with me here.
… … … … …
As one, everyone in Command turns to look at Trance. I have to try hard not to laugh at the expression on her face; she looks astonished beyond belief. She stares for a moment or two, then says in a confused voice, "I'm not playing any game."
The silvery-blue girl on the screen snorts and looks down for a moment to adjust the instruments in her cockpit. "Well, if you haven't been trying to play hide-and-seek for the last three hundred years, why have you been avoiding me?"
"I'm sorry I had to leave you for so long," Trance says. I recognize the look in her eyes; it's the look she gets whenever she's determined to be mysterious and not tell anyone what they want to know. Miss Silvery-Blue, or whoever she is, isn't going to get anything useful out of Trance now.
The girl gives trance an exasperated look. "It isn't the three hundred years that bothers me," she says. "Three hundred years is nothing. What bothers me is that you left without telling me why, and I couldn't even pick the answers out of your essence." She takes a good look at Trance's closed expression and adds, "Is there anywhere on that impressive ship of yours where we could go to talk?"
I glance at Rommie, who straightens up at the compliment. She looks at Trance. I follow her gaze to see Trance turn to me. "Beka?" the gold alien asks, smiling a little.
I sigh and start typing codes into my console. "Hangar Thirteen is empty," I tell Silvery-Blue. "We'll meet you there."
She nods at me. "Thank you very much, Captain Valentine. Pisces out."
Okay, that was officially off the weirdness charts. She knew my name. Hell, she even knew my rank! I glare suspiciously at the screen as Silvery-Blue – Pisces, was it? – reaches up and presses something. Andromeda's screen reverts back to the Commonwealth insignia.
I turn to Trance and glare suspiciously at her too. "How did she know who I am?" I ask. As the most enigmatic member of the Andromeda's crew, and the only one who even knows who Silvery-Blue is, she'd better have answers. I hope that inviting Silvery-Blue onto the Andromeda wasn't a mistake. In the past there have been a lot of times when our guests ended up being more trouble than they were worth.
Trance shrugs and says, "She has her ways."
We've left Command and have started down the corridor toward Hangar Thirteen. Rommie and Rhade are walking in front, looking very professional and militaristic. Trance and I follow behind. "So who was that girl?" I ask her as we walk along. "And how did she know you were here?"
"That was Tempest Pisces," Trance says. She's . . . kind of related to me. We have a connection. It wouldn't have been all that hard for her to find me."
Which still explains nothing.
I shake my head at her innocent smile and tune in to Rhade and Rommie's conversation instead. Rhade is giving the ship's avatar her orders. "-And guest quarters need to be prepared for a least four people. I don't know how many were with Pisces in the two slipfighters-"
"My bio scans indicated that there was one life formon the first slipfighter,and one android on the second," Rommie interrupts.
"Then we'll need guest quarters for two. Internal defenses will have to be adjusted; I want them monitored carefully until we've had a chance to determine whether or not they are a threat to anyone."
"Aye," Rommie says, looking as if she's concentrating very hard on something. Then she blinks and nods. "I have readjusted the internal defenses."
By this time we're in the home stretch. As we stroll past Hangar Ten, it occurs to me to wonder exactly how old Trance is. I already know that Tempest Pisces has been searching for her for at least three hundred years, and it was obvious from watching their short conversation that at least Tempest has a skewed view of time. If three hundred years is nothing, she must have been around for thousands of years! The idea is absolutely mind-boggling.
The door to Hangar Thirteen is straight ahead. Rommie stops at the door and looks thoughtful for a few moments. Then she reaches up to touch the keypad. "The hangar is pressurized," she announces as the door slides open.
The two slipfighters are sitting next to each other, dwarfed by the size of the hangar. The hatch of the right-hand slipfighter slides open and the silvery-blue girl steps out and glances around in interest. She looks toward us and waits as we walk over. As soon as we reach her, Trance takes a few quick steps forward and gives her a hug. Tempest laughs and hugs back. Rhade, Rommie and I exchange embarrassed glances.
After a few moments, Trance lets go and turns around. "Beka, Rommie, Rhade," she says, smiling at us all, "I want to introduce you to Tempest Pisces. She's a friend of mine." She turns back to the girl. "Tempest, this is Beka Valentine. She's the first officer aboard the Andromeda and she's the captain of the Eureka Maru."
Tempest smiles warmly at me. It's not the sort of smile someone gives when they first meet someone else, though; it's more like the way someone smiles when they're reuniting with someone they don't know too well but have seen before. It makes me shiver. "It's wonderful to see you again, Captain," she murmurs graciously.
I raise one eyebrow skeptically and take a small step away. "Uh, have we met before?" I ask, frowning.
Tempest and Trance exchange looks. Trance shakes her head slightly.
"I'm sorry, Captain," Tempest says smoothly. "I must have mistaken you for someone else."
"Beka," I say, eyeing her warily. "Beka will do just fine."
Trance gestures at Rommie. "This is the avatar of the Andromeda Ascendant. We call her Rommie. And this," she turns to Rhade, "is Lieutenant Commander Telemachus Rhade of the Majorum Pride."
Tempest smiles at all of us, an odd, almost ironic smile. "It is a pleasure to meet Trance's companions," she says somberly.
Trance turns back to her. "Who's in the other slipfighter? It isn't-?"
The silvery-blue girl nods. "Yes, it's Kalypso. I asked her to wait until I was sure we were welcome. Would you like to greet her?" She gestures to the slipfighter.
In answer Trance presses a sequence into the slipfighter's keypad, and the hatch slides open. I realize I'm staring in something akin to shock. How did Trance know the code for that slipfighter? I shake my head in an attempt to clear my mind. I really wish sometimes that Trance wasn't so enigmatic.
Trance peers inside the slipfighter. "Kalypso?" she asks. There's a muffled response from inside. Trance smiles brightly and steps back to let a girl get out of the slipfighter. The girl is young – she can't be any older than twenty, with long, wavy black hair that is twisted into a sort of crown on the top of her head with the rest hanging loose down to her waist. She has pale, creamy skin and soft brown eyes, and she wears uniform-style leather pants, boots and jacket. The way she carries herself reminds me of Rommie, and I give the android a glance out of the corner of my eye. Rommie is surveying the girl with a thoughtful frown.
"Everyone," Trance says after another long hug, "This is Kalypso Battlestar. Kalypso, this is Telemachus Rhade, Andromeda, and Beka Valentine."
As Kalypso Battlestar inclines her head regally, Rommie asks bluntly, "Where's the rest of you?"
Rhade and I turn to stare at her, then turn back to Kalypso, looking her over carefully. What is she talking about? Rommie's scans have probably told her more about the girl than I know just by looking at her. But still . . . It isn't as if she's missing half of herself! Kalypso blinks and says, "How did you know?"
My mouth falls open, and it takes conscious effort to shut it again and keep it shut.
Rommie smiles and says matter-of-factly, "One ship knows another."
Kalypso returns the smile briefly. "You are correct." To Rhade and me, she explains, "I am the avatar of the Brilliant Carapace-class ship the Kalypso Battlestar. The warship part of me, including my central AI core, was destroyed in an ambush while I was on a mission with my chief engineer, but this part of me was left intact. My chief engineer was able to realign my AI core before I lost a significant part of my memory and personality."
Rommie looks intrigued. "I'm interested to know how he accomplished it," she says. "Perhaps you'd like to discuss it on the way back to Command?" She gestures politely at the door.
"Maybe you'd like to show Tempest and Kalypso to the guest quarters instead," I say to Rommie, reminding her of her duties. I turn back to Trance's friends. "But I, uh, hope you'll forgive me if I have to leave you. I was due in the conference room about two hours ago, and Dylan will be wondering what happened to me." I look at Rhade. "Rhade, will you –"
"I'm coming with you," he interrupts me.
I glare at him half-heartedly. Stupid responsible Nietszcheans... "All right," I say, not regretting it as much as I'd like to. There's always that secret little part of me that enjoys his company, no matter what. "Let's go." With a final nod to Tempest and Kalypso, I turn and head toward the conference room.
Once Rhade and I are a safe distance away from Hangar Thirteen, I turn to Rhade and say in a low voice, "That was probably the creepiest experience of my life."
He's startled into giving me a surprised look, then quickly smoothes his expression over and glances around to make sure no one is around to overhear. "What makes you say that?"
"Tempest knew me. Did you see the way she greeted me? She'd met me before."
"No." I shake my head. "I'm sure I'd recognize her if I'd met her before, especially because she looks so much like Trance."
Rhade shrugs. "Maybe you should ask her about it."
"I can't do that! I don't know her well and it would be completely tactless."
He turns his head to look at me and gives me a sardonic little grin. "I never thought I'd see you worrying about tact," he says.
I stop and glare at him. "You know what, Rhade, you're a fine one to talk."
Rhade stops as well and raises one eyebrow. "And what makes you say that?"
"Well, what else am I supposed to think? After all, you are a Nietzschean." I wave one hand in a frustrated gesture.
With one hand, he tilts my chin up, then leans forward and touches his lips gently to mine. I tense for a moment in surprise, then close my eyes to enjoy the kiss. He lingers for another second, then pulls away and starts toward the conference room. "If you recall, you don't have time to waste on petty insults, even if you don't mean them," he says.
For a few moments all I can do is stand there and stare after him. Did he really just -? He did, didn't he? Damn crazy Nietzscheans!I sigh, only half with frustration, and hurry to catch up.