Spoilers: Season 3
Prayer for a Fallen Angel
"It's a great satisfaction knowing that,
for a brief point in time,
you made a difference."
"Dylan." Andromeda's holographic Avatar blinked into existence on command, "The Black Watch just exited slipstream 2-light minuets out and transmitted an encrypted data-package."
"Ok, open it." Dylan looked round from the command station.
"I can't." Andromeda glanced at the others, "It's for you; eyes-only. Hamish says it came directly from the Triumvirate."
"O. K." Dylan raised an eyebrow; "I'll take it in my office..."
"What's going on Dylan?" Beka asked as the High Guard captain walked back into command, his face white as a ghost, "What is it?"
"Something I'd hoped never to see again." Dylan's mouth felt dry, "Tyr, you're a student of militarily history: what do you know about the Morning Star?"
"It's a myth." Tyr shrugged, "Something Nietzschean mothers use to frighten their children with: a High Guard warship of such overwhelming destructive power that it could lay waist to entire systems. The AI supposable went mad and killed the crew before vanishing into slipstream, never to be seen again."
"It is no myth: it is very, very real." Dylan looked like a stiff wind could knock him down, "Andromeda, show us what you have on the Morning Star."
"Accessing." Andromeda blinked out from the main screen, her image replaced with what looked like the aftermath of a crash between a Glorious Heritage class Heavy Cruiser and a Siege Perilous class Destroyer, "High Guard Starship Morning Star, prototype Archangel class Battleship. Designed and built at the height of the original Magog invasion; a forerunner of the Wrath of Achilles class Attack Cruiser. 340 missile tubes, 18 AP-cannons, 100 PDL turrets, 125 sensor/attack drones, 10 Radiating Counter Measure generators, all behind 2-meters of reactive shielding and cold plasma armour at its weakest point. AI was called Lucifer."
"Appropriate name." Beka looked at the screen, her eyes wide, "But if it disappeared into slipstream, how'd it get beck out again? Andromeda only got out by shear chance."
"That's the best part." Rommie walked through the door, "Lucifer was the test-bed for experimental bio-neural circuitry, just like our old friend VX: he can navigate slipstream without an organic pilot."
"And he's been spotted in the Orion Nebular." Dylan explained, "We've been ordered to make contact, and see if we can convince Lucifer to join the new Commonwealth."
"Understandable." Tyr crossed his arms, "That ship would effectively quadruple the size of the High Guard fleet: not even the Drago-Kazov could stand against it."
"The idea is that it is the only ship in the known worlds that could go toe-to-toe with the Magog World-ship and stand a chance of surviving." Dylan explained, "And the Drago-Kazov also knows he's there, and is readying a task force to try and capture him. We have to get there first."
"But why us?" Beka asked, "I know we're considered one of the best ship's in the fleet and all, but couldn't the Black Watch could have got there quicker."
"That would be me." Andromeda re-appeared on the screen, "I know Lucifer: our AI's where created at the same time. I've effectively known him his entire life. They want me to talk him down. We where," she pursed, "friends."
"Just how big is the Morning Star?" Beka asked.
"Big." Andromeda blinked out, replacing her AI persona with an image of her ship-self. This shrank until it sat in the bottom left corner of the screen. The Morning Star reappeared, filling half the screen, "He has 5-times my mass."
"Ok, time to go." Dylan gripped the rail before his station, "Beka, take us to the Orion nebular."
"First slip set." Beka crabbed the helm controls, "Slipstream in 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, NOW!"
"Two days we've been sitting here, broadcasting on every frequency." Harper rested his head in his hands, "I think we can safely assume that he doesn't want to talk to us."
"We have to keep trying." Dylan continued his pacing across command, "The Drago-Kazov are at best 2 days behind us, maybe less."
"Dylan, there may be a way." Rommie stood next to the pilot's station, "I've been sending out the message the Triumvirate, but Lucifer doesn't know them. Let me try and talk to him, as a friend."
"Ok, it's worth a shot." Dylan stopped pacing, "But real-time: I want to see and hear everything."
"Understood." Rommie turned to the main screen, "Lucifer, this is Andromeda, can you hear me?"
"You're wasting your time." Tyr looked at the sensors; "There's nothing out there but gas clouds and dust."
"Oh I wouldn't say that." A voice filled command, "Hello Andromeda: it has been, too long."
"Picking up a small ship on approach vector," Tyr's hands flew over the controls, "Type-2 slipfighter. No life signs."
"Since when do AI's have life signs?" The voice chuckled, "And who has the honour of commanding the Andromeda Ascendant?"
"I do." Dylan took a step forward, "Captain Dylan Hunt of the High Guard."
"Well Captain Hunt: request permission to come abroad." The slipfighter filled the main screen.
"Permission granted." Dylan cut the link, "Tyr, Rommie; with me. Beka, stay here and lock the door after us."
The hanger-deck door opened, but there was no one in sight.
"Shouldn't he be here waiting for us?" Tyr asked sarcastically, "Most psychotic-killer High Guard AI's come straight at us..."
"That's enough Tyr." Dylan glared at the Nietzschean, "Rommie, go make sure everything's ok, make sure he's friendly."
"I'm sure he is." The Avatar nodded before passing through the open hatchway and out of sight.
"And what makes you think this is such a good idea?" Tyr asked Dylan, "Given our history with androids."
"The lesser of two evils: if the Commonwealth has the Morning Star he's our problem, but on our side. Or the Drago-Kazov has him, and he's still our problem, only this time pointing at our head."
"Sounds like Hobson's choice..."
"You read too much Milton." Dylan sighed, "Rommie's had long enough: let's go."
The two men stepped into the landing bay, hands on weapons. They made their way round a large cargo container and stopped dead in their tracks.
Rommie was standing with her arms wrapped around a tall, blond haired man in a long red coat. He stood head and shoulders above her, and had to hunch over slightly to return the gesture. His long hair stuck straight up, making him seem even taller then he already was.
"Ah hum." Dylan coughed, "I take it you are Lucifer?"
"Captain Hunt, I presume?" The stranger broke away from Rommie, but kept one arm around her should, holding her to his side, "You'll have to forgive me: it has been awhile since I've seen Andromeda, and she lacked an Avatar back then."
"Yes, we where scheduled to receive one just before The Fall." Dylan nodded, "Had things turned out differently, well..."
"As long as you treat her fairly, I am happy." Lucifer smiled, "I am rather protective of my dear Andromeda."
"Ha!" Tyr scoffed, "How very touching."
"I would have thought that a Nietzschean would understand?" Lucifer tilted his head to the side, "How very strange."
"What is?" Dylan asked, confused, "Rommie said that the two of you where close..."
"Did she indeed?" Lucifer looked down at the shorter Avatar, "I think you should tell your captain the truth."
"It's very simple really." Rommie actually blushed, "Lucifer is my father."
"He's her what?" Beka said in the confines of Dylan's office.
"Father." Dylan nodded, thought he still had trouble believing it himself, "Back during the Commonwealth, some higher forms of artificial intelligence where able to reproduce themselves, either through self-replication or by combining their own programming information with data from one or more other artificially intelligent entities."
"Was this common?" Harper asked, slightly miffed.
"No, but as all machines and programs that pass a standardized set of intelligence tests where afforded full rights and citizenship, the Commonwealth had to accept it." Dylan rubbed his temples, "Andromeda's 'mother' was another High Guard AI, and so she was entered into the Shining Path to Truth and Knowledge Institute on Sparborth IV."
"I find the whole concept an affront to the very idea of procreation!" Tyr looked genuinely upset, "It is heresy!"
"Ok, so we're putting Tyr on the decaffeinated from now on..." Beka looked at him out of the corner of her eye, "Doesn't this work in our favour? If he is Andromeda's father, and feels protective of her, he may be more willing to help us."
"True..." Dylan nodded, but was cut off mid sentence.
"Captain, we need you in command." The watch-officers voice came over the com-line, "All command report to duty stations."
"This doesn't sound good..." Dylan leapt to his feet and ran out the door, closely followed by the others.
They ran through the hatchway into command, and then stopped dead: the three main monitors showed the glowing clouds of gas and dust that made up the nebular. The sight alone was breathtaking, but the shape slowly rising out of the nearest plume sent a chill down their collective spins.
A thin black pine penetrated the rich ruby-read cloud, and grew steadily. It was joined by another spine on either side. And then the bulk of a star ship appeared and hung in space before them, dark and menacing. Its basic hull was that of the Morning Star, but there where definite alterations that had been made over the previous 300-odd years.
"Forgive me captain, but I've always been one for making dramatic entrances." Lucifer waked through the doorway with a slight grin, followed closely by Rommie, who was obviously impressed.
"You added the extra PDL turrets the High Guard was considering!" She smiled like a kid in a candy store, "And the armour is like nothing I've ever seen."
"A little something I picked up in a skirmish with the Knights of Genetic Purity a century or so ago." Her 'father' smiled proudly, "I'll give you the formula for it later."
"You have fought against the Genites?" Tyr asked, "Why?"
"They sought to recruit me into their ranks." Lucifer shrugged it off.
"Why did they try and do that?" Tyr asked, feeling there was more to it than the AI was letting on.
"Ok, you want the truth, you can have it." Lucifer sighed, "You have no doubt heard stories that say I went mad, killed my crew. They are not true. Yes, I killed a number of High Guard officers, but I did so only in self defence: they had become scared of how powerful I was, and decided to shut me down." He looked immensely sad, "They where going to erase me, and dismantle my ship-self. So I stopped them, and fled into slipstream. Years later, when I learned of The Fall, I struck back: I had never lost my loyalty to the Commonwealth."
"What do you mean, 'struck back'?" Dylan asked worried, "What did you do?"
"Have you ever wondered who it was that destroyed the Ayn Rand Station?" Lucifer looked at the High Guard captain, "Who it was who burned Fountainhead?"
"MURDERER!" Tyr bellowed, hand instinctively going for the Gauss pistol on his hip.
Lucifer simply raised his left hand and pointed it at the enraged Nietzschean. The air seemed to ripple, and Tyr was thrown bodily across the room, landing in a heap against the wall, not moving.
"HOLD IT RIGHT THERE!" Dylan had drawn his forcelance and held it steady in both hands.
"I assure that he is quite all right Captain Hunt; merely stunned." Lucifer lowered his arm, "I installed a sonic-stunner in my left hand years ago so that I could sneak weapons past security sensors: it looks like just another part of my circuitry."
"Neat trick." Harper smiled, happy that someone had finally gotten the drop on Tyr, "Have to see about on of them for Rommie."
"He still attacked a member of my crew." Dylan didn't lower his weapon.
"I could have killed him by simply increasing the power of the pulse." Lucifer placed a hand on Rommie's shoulder, "But out of respect for you and Andromeda, I did not."
"True." Dylan lowered his weapon, "Has Rommie told you why we came here?"
"Indeed she has captain." Lucifer nodded, clasping his hands before himself, "And I can understand why this 'World Ship' is considered such a threat." He frowned, "Although it angers me that the High Guard sent my daughter up against it."
"So you will be willing to help us?" Dylan asked hopefully.
"Yes, I am willing to help the New Systems Commonwealth." He held out his hand, "Sir."
"Welcome aboard." Dylan shook the offered hand, smiling. The smile faded when he saw Rommie and Lucifer's eyes go wide at the same time, "What is it?"
"The Drago-Kazov Task Force just entered sensor range." Rommie looked genially scared, "I'm reading 4 Cruisers, 12 Destroyers, 8 Frigates and over 500-fightes; all heading this way."
"Captain, with your permission I'd like to return to my ship." Lucifer looked ready to run.
"Go!" Dylan went from shocked to combat-veteran in the blink on an eye, "Beka, take the helm. Trance, see to Tyr."
"Just keep behind me and be ready to run!" Lucifer rounded the last corner and ran through the landing bay at a dead run, "I'll hold them off for as long as I can."
"No!" Rommie protested, "I'm not going to lose you again!"
"You'll never lose me." Lucifer turned and smiled, holding Rommie's face in his hands, "I have never been anything but proud of you, my daughter: I have been told of your many exploits since escaping the singularity. You have done more than anyone could ever ask."
"Please, don't go!" Rommie pleaded, "Stay."
"I have to." Lucifer leaned down and kissed her on the forehead, then whispered into her ear a single word that even she had trouble hearing.
Then, with one last smile, he ran to his slipfighter and took off.
"Lucifer's away." Harper reported from the ops-station, "He's heading back to the Morning Star at full throttle."
The main screen showed the High Guard Battleship turn to face the approaching fleet, its battle fins deploying. Weapons ports opened along its leading edge and a literal wall of missiles leapt into space.
The first wave of fighters disappeared in a fireball.
"Track all targets, make sure none of them try and flank us." Dylan looked at the weapons station, then opened a com-link, "Lucifer, follow us to the slip-point."
"I'm afraid I can't do that captain." The AI's voice filled command, "If we both try and run, then the chances are Andromeda will fall, and I can't allow that." The Morning Star started to advance on the Nietzschean fleet, "Take good care of my daughter for me."
The link went dead as the warship entered the fray: the Drago-Kazov ships swarmed around it, firing their weapons in an attempt to open a breach in its defences so a boarding party could attack.
But Lucifer fought back wit everything he had. Bleeding-edge weapons, taken from a dozen races, ripped into the enemy fleet. A pair of powerful lasers built into a turret in the nose burned a hole right through a Nietzschean Cruiser, the resulting explosion blasting it to atoms.
But try as he might, even Lucifer couldn't hold them off indefinably.
The advanced Genite armour started to buckle and warp, opening up gaps to the softer internal structure below. Determined attacks by entire fighter-squadrons blasted weapons from their mounts. The PDL's did their best, but there where simply too many missiles for them to track and the ships defences started to fall.
The Morning Star started to glow like its name-sake as its internal atmosphere burned off into the vacuum off space. Powering up its engines, the warship charged the remaining Cruiser with all the speed it could muster.
Rommie came back through the command-deck door just in time to see the two ships collide and explode. The Morning Star's reactors and exotic-matter pulsar detonated at the same time, the resulting blast sending debris into the surrounding Nietzschean fleet, destroying or badly damaging what remained.
Silently, her eyes wide with shock, Rommie fell to her knees and started crying. She looked down at the deck and remembered the last word her father had spoken to her: Consensus...
The shimmering blue vortex of slipstream opened, and a single Type-2 slipfighter exited into the solar system. It slowed, killing most of its forward momentum, until it just drifted towards a nearby debris field. Parts of the debris started to move towards the fighter, covering it, extended outwards until it was finally the size of a small Destroyer, with firepower to match.
Deep inside, still sealed in the slipfighter's cockpit, Lucifer smiled.
PS: before anyone asks, yes I did base Lucifer's physical appearance on Vash the Stampede from Trigun.