Spoilers: #101 Under the Night, #208 Home Fires, #310 The Unconquerable Man
And the flame still burns…
"Everything has a beginning and an end. Life is just a cycle of starts and stops.
There are ends we don't desire, but they're inevitable, we have to face them.
It's what being human is all about."
Jet Black, Cowboy Bebop
"Need I remind you that this is still MY mission?" Telemachus stormed after Beka, "You may have been awarded the contract, but that does not mean you command this operation."
"LOOK!" Beka span round, "I know this is your pet project, and I know how much it means to you, but I am not going to allow our personal history to interfere with the running of MY ship!"
"Hey Boss, if you and the Admiral have stopped arguing, I've found the Andromeda." Harper poked his head round the door, "Just thought I'd mention it, what with that being the reason we're here."
"Show me!" Beka pushed past the engineer and pied intently at the main screen, "There she is: the Andromeda Ascendant." She turned to Telemachus, "Happy now?"
"Very." Telemachus smiled, "Let's start the recovery procedure."
"You heard the man Harper." Beka strapped herself into the pilot's seat, "Trance, Rev, get ready."
"Navigation and sensors ready." Rev Bem took his station, "We have the Andromeda targeted for recovery."
"Life-support and Anti-grave systems ready." Trance typed commands into the computer, "AG field is at maximum."
"Engine room ready." Harper's voice came over the com-system, "Let's hope theses upgrades hold."
"Ok, everyone grab hold of something." Beka eased the controls forward, "This is liable to get just a little bumpy." The entire ship shook as the gravitational rip-tides started to tug on it, "Like I said: just a little bumpy."
"Be careful: the last attempt to pull the Andromeda free almost cost both ships!" Telemachus grabbed hold of the rail behind the pilot's station, "Call it a Nietzschean thing, but I don't want to be sucked into a black hole."
"Relax Telemachus." Beka worked the controls with an ease born of experience, "The reason I was given this job is because I know what I'm doing. Anyway, why are you so interested in the Andromeda? Wasn't it the ship that got word of the Nietzschean uprising out? If not for this ship, you're people could be ruling the universe."
"It's personal." The High Guard officer explained, "Gaheris Rhade, one of my ancestors, was first officer at the time of the uprising: some say he was part of the conspiracy, some say he tried to warn his captain. I want to know the truth: if we can board the Andromeda and access her logs, I'll know the truth once and for all."
"What if you find out he was a traitor?" Beka asked, "Have you thought about how you will deal with that?"
"No." The Nietzschean admitted after a moment.
"Well, this isn't a good time for second thoughts." Beka pressed the trigger on the control sticks, "Harpoons away!"
The monomolecular carbon chain ropes leapt from the Eureka Maru and shot across space until they found the Andromeda. The small thrusters in the grapple fired, wrapping the cables around the forward struts, gripping the larger ship tightly.
"We have he Andromeda secured." Rev Bem looked up from his display, "All cables are holding, but #8 and #12 show signs of stress."
"Well within the safety margins." Beka slowly turned her ship round, "Harper, time to earn you pay: give me all she's got!"
"I'm on it!" Harper started flipping switches like mad, feeding more and more power into the already over-taxed engines, "Hold on tight: this is going to kick!" He flipped the last switch.
The Maru bucked like a rodeo bull as the engines red lined, surging the small ship forward. The grapple-lines tensed as they took the straight of the Andromeda, slowly pulling her away from the singularity.
"AG field is critical." Trance reported as the screen in front of her lit up like a Christmas tree, "I don't know how much more we can take!"
"Just a few more seconds!" Beka screamed over the sound of exploding components, praying that nothing critical went.
"Tethers #8 and #12 failing!" Rev Bem worked his controls as fast as he could, "We lose two more and the gravitational pull of the black hole will rip the Andromeda away from us."
"Not going to happen!" Beka squeezed the throttle as tight as she could, almost sending the engines into overload, "Almost... Got... Her... Free!" She gritted her teeth as the air filled with warning sirens.
Then, like a cork leaving a Champaign bottle, the Andromeda passed the critical point where the pull from the singularity became less than that from the Maru, and slowly drifted forwards.
"You can relax now Telemachus: we have your grate-granddaddy's ship." Beka grinned as she span the Maru round 180-degrees, "And there she is."
"She's beautiful…" The Nietzschean was momentarily lost for words, "How soon can we board her?"
"As soon as we stow the cables away." Beka relaxed in her chair, "Relax Admiral, she's not going anywhere."
"Captain! Captain Hunt!" Andromeda sounded worried, "Can you here me?"
"What was that?" Dylan blinked.
"We may have experienced more sever time distortions closer to the black hole." The Hologram looked confused, "Calculating time difference based on galactic expansion."
"How long?" Dylan's thought was dry.
"By my calculations, we where stranded for…" Andromeda hesitated, shocked, "Dylan, we've been frozen for 300-years!"
"300-years!" Dylan almost screamed, "My folks, the crew, Sara, Rhade's wives, Dawns mating group, gone." He stumbled, almost falling, "We have to make contact, find out what happened."
"I'm not picking up any signals in this system. Wait." Andromeda's eyes flicked from side to side, "We've just been boarded: ship is of unknown design." The image on the main screen changed to show the landing bay, "I'm detecting 2 humans, 1 Nietzschean, a Magog and a, I don't have a clue what she is." The image zoomed in on Trance.
"Humans and Nietzscheans working with a Magog? Are they crazy?" Dylan asked, before the dark haired Nietzschean turned to face towards the camera. "What the hell?" Dylan jumped; looking down to make sure his former first officer was still lying there, dead from plasma round to the guts. "He look's just like…" The words caught in his thought.
"The similarity is indeed striking." Andromeda nodded, "I'd say they where twins, but the Commander's file doesn't mention one."
"And he is the only on in a High Guard uniform." Dylan nodded, lifting a discarded forcelance from the deck, "I'd better go see what's going on…"
"Man, this place is HUGE!" Harper looked around him in wounded as the crew of the Eureka Maru made their way along the corridors, "I've never seen anything like it."
"You're acting like you've never been on a High Guard starship before." Beka rolled her eyes, "You seen one, you've pretty much seen them all."
"Hey, unlike you I was never in the High Guard." Harper pointed out, "And as much as I love the Maru, I can't think what made you give up THIS sort of opulence for a beat-up cargo ship."
"Too many rules and too many regulations." Beka sighed, "The Maru maybe a beat-up cargo ship, but she has one thing the High Guard could never offer me: freedom to be myself."
"Um, Beka." Trance had stopped dead at the next junction, "What did the records say about people being left on this ship?"
"What are you talking about?" Beka stoped as she caught sight of Dylan, his forcelance pointed at Trance's head. She instinctively went for her Gauss pistol.
"I wouldn't do that if I where you." Dylan shook his head slightly, "Now who the hell are you, and what are you doing on my ship?"
"Captain Hunt?" Telemachus' jaw dropped, "I'm sorry: I've seen photos of you my entire life." He came sharply to attention, "Admiral Telemachus Rhade of the High Guard. We came here to recover the Andromeda: we didn't think there would be anyone left alive…"
"Just me and Andromeda." Dylan's forcelance was still pointed at Trance's head, "Sorry if I'm a little behind on my history, but last time I checked, the Nietzscheans where attacking the Commonwealth."
"The Nietzschean uprising was put down by Admiral Stark over 300-years ago." Telemachus explained, "You're crew managed to get word out of the ambush and the fleet was mobilised in time to stop it spreading."
"What proof do you have?" Andromeda's holographic Avatar blinked into existence next to Dylan, "Do you have an authorisation code?"
"Authorisation Code: Omnicom Gamma Delta 2-9-4." Telemachus looked the AI straight in the eye, "Code-name: Proteus."
"An authentic authorisation code." Andromeda admitted, "300-years ago."
"You should be able to access the AI on the ship we came in." Telemachus looked more annoyed than anything, "You will find our mission brief and my authorisation from the Admiralty."
"Accessing." Andromeda looked distant for a second, "I have found the mission brief and authorisation. They appear to be genuine."
"That still doesn't answer my question." Dylan's hand hadn't moved, "Why should I trust you?"
"Why shouldn't you?" Trance asked; her eyes still fixed on the end of Dylan's forcelance, "What would we have to gain from lying to you? I mean, if he seriously wanted to take this ship by force, do you really think a Nietzschean would care about someone like me?"
"True…" Dylan found himself trusting the purple-skinned alien, "Andromeda, your recommendation?"
"All the available evidence seems to support their claims." The hologram admitted, "But after what happened…"
"Can I trust a Nietzschean?" Dylan nodded.
"Captain, I understand how you may feel about Nietzschean's…" Telemachus took half a step forward.
"Considering it was your 'Ancestor' who almost sent my ship into the singularity, you'll forgive me if I find it hard to trust you." Dylan glared at the other officer.
"Then the stories are true." Telemachus looked like he'd been punched in the gut, "I never believed them, not really…"
"What?" Dylan was getting more and more confused.
"There where conflicting reports as to Commander Rhade's involvement in the uprising." Beka explained, "He was hoping to find proof that his ancestor innocence."
"I'm sorry." Dylan looked at Telemachus, "Gaheris was my friend."
"So you believe us?" Beka asked.
"I don't know what I believe anymore." Dylan shrugged, lowering his forcelance, "But I'm willing to go on a little trust, for now."
"You knew it was a possibility." Beka stood next to the Nietzschean Admiral as he looked out the observation-bay window, "I've read the same history texts as you: the Andromeda was betrayed from within…"
"Did you know that I'm almost genetically identical to my ancestor?" Telemachus didn't take his eyes off the black hole, "That's when Captain Hunt was so shocked by the way I look." He turned his head to the side slightly, "Andromeda told me how he died: he tried to kill his captain, but lost the fight they had in command."
"I can't even begin to understand how you must feel: but what he did back then doesn't make you any less of a person now."
"No, it doesn't. Look: If I took after my ancestors I'd be a flash-fired drug addict like my farther. I won't even start on my mother…"
"But you're human; it's not the same for Nietzschean's."
"I didn't mean it like that: you know I'd never consider you inferior..."
"What: because we shared a bed for a while?"
"Dame it Beka, you know it's not like that!"
"I don't know what I know anymore." Beka turned to leave, "The Telemachus Rhade I knew wouldn't be moping around here like this."
"Admiral." Andromeda's holographic form appeared, "Captain Hunt would like to see you in his office."
"Admiral." Dylan stood as the other High Guard officer entered the room, "Come in."
"Andromeda told me you wanted to see me?" Telemachus looked confused.
"Yes, please, sit."
"I can understand that you're no comfortable around me…"
"No, it's ok. I've been doing a lot of thinking these past two days, thinking about Gaheris."
"Do you play Go Admiral?"
"I used to, when I was a cadet."
"Your ancestor and I used to, every day or so. He was one of the best players I ever met."
"I assume this is going somewhere?"
"It is: one day, during a game, I noticed that one of my pieces was missing. I confronted Gaheris, and he admitted that he'd cheated, and had cheated in every game we had ever played. I asked him why, and he told me that for a Nietzschean every test, every game, was a chance to prove their superiority, and that it was only cheating if he was caught."
"I don't understand."
"During the attack, Gaheris suggested that we used a Nova Bomb to destroy the Hephaistos star, thus end the battle. I told him that I would never use a strategic weapon on an inhabited system. He then told me that I should have all then Nietzschean's, himself included, confined to the brig."
"What did you do?"
"Gaheris was my best friend; he was going to be best man at my wedding, and I trusted his judgment. Then, when he came back into command, he told me that he had tried to warn me several times, but I'd never listened. He was right."
"He tried to warn you?"
"I think that's what the Go game had been about: he'd let me spot his cheating, hoping that I'd work it out: he'd never betray the Nietzschean people directly, but he could still try and tell me to be weary."
"Why are you telling me this?"
"Gaheris Rhade was my friend, and a fine and dedicated High Guard officer. He was forced to make an impossible decision: his people or the Commonwealth. He tried to choose both."
"I don't understand."
"He died for what he believed in: both the Commonwealth and the Nietzschean people. You should be proud of him: I am."
"Admiral, Captain, we're being hailed by a Commonwealth starship." Andromeda's voice came from a speaker on the wall, "IFF reads as the Siege Perilous class Destroyer Balance of Judgment."
"Captain Anasazi's ship." Telemachus nodded, "They where to aide us in the salvage operation."
"I guess their late." Dylan smiled.
"We never expected to find Andromeda so quickly."
"So now what?"
"Now? I guess we have to get Andromeda operational and head back to Tarn-Vedra for a debriefing."
"I'd like that." Dylan smiled, "It'll be good to go home."