Disclaimer: Andromeda is the property of Tribune Entertainment, Fireworks Productions and the creation of Gene Roddenberry, as are all the characters, events, and concepts. This is written in response to Erin's challenge from the Beka/Dylan fanfiction archive.
"Splinter of a Fractured Light" by Karen
The floor to ceiling windows let in light and air from outside the spacious apartments that had been bought and decorated by the woman that lay beside him on the king size bed. Dylan Hunt thought he was the luckiest man alive and not just for her good sense and style know how but also for as a person and a life mate. He watched the curve of her cheek as she breathed. He felt an urge to brush the blond wisps of hair out of her face so that he might get a better look at her features.
His wife. He repeated those words to himself a few more times just so that felt more grounded in reality.
He decided to work off some of the restlessness that was keeping him awake this early in the morning. He rose from the bed, the sheets stuck to his waist from the static cling. He shrugged them aside and covered his wife and shuffled off toward the kitchen, planning on brewing a fresh pot of coffee, black with cream and sugar.
He had just emerged from the hallway connecting the bedroom and the kitchen when a small shadow darted toward him from the opposite direction. His eight-year old fair-haired son emerged and ran past any and all obstacles in his path, including the grandfather clock in the hallway, whose glass-enclosed face never did record the correct passing of time. However, the clock had been in his family for several generations, and had sentimental value, and Dylan refused to part with it.
The boy circled around the kitchen counter with its marble tabletop, and came to a skidding stop in front of where Dylan sat waiting for the hot water to boil. The boy looked up, and launched himself into his father's arms. Dylan tousled the blond hair, "Sleep well?" he asked.
"Sure did!" Then the small face that was almost a mirror of his mother's wrinkled up in a frown. "But you forgot to tell me a bedtime story last night."
"I did, hmm, we'll have to do something about that." Dylan set his son down in a nearby chair, and paced around the table thinking of the best ways to go about solving the problem, when it came to him.
He couldn't recall if it was a story that his own parents had told him when he was a boy, or if it was one that he had picked up by perusing other cultural databases. No matter, it was still a good one. He resumed his seat in the chair, and leant back. "Pay attention," he said.
"Once upon a time, there was a great kingdom."
"Very great. But with any great kingdom, some things can be difficult to manage for the ruler, you see the king of this land had reigned for many years and he was not getting any younger. Fortunately he had three strong sons, and one daughter. So he summoned his vizier, his advisor, and planned to divvy up his holdings, his riches, and his kingdom among all of his children."
"What happened next?"
"Be patient and I'll tell you." Dylan paused, thinking it through. "You see, the three sons were jealous of one other, and each one thought that he should be the next in line for the throne. Unfortunately, there was another problem."
"What kind of problem?" his son asked, anxious to keeping the tale moving forward.
"The daughter was the youngest, but she had fallen ill, in order to find the medicine that she needed, the advisor told of a place where a magical elixir could be found."
"So he set the three sons on a quest!"
"Got it in one." The sons set out together, riding on the finest horses the royal stable could provide. Each one came to the crossroads and by mutual agreement would set out in a different direction, the oldest went east, the middle one set out for the west, and the youngest went north. At a prearranged time they would meet back at the crossroads of the city whether or not they were successful on their quest."
"The first son rode through the foothills, pausing to rest and his horse at watering holes, and streams. He took it easy, thinking that he had all the time in the world.
"He wasn't trying very hard to find the medicine for his sister."
"No he wasn't."
"Then his fine clothing, jewels, were taken by a roving group of bandits, forcing him to walk back to the castle on foot."
"Too bad for him!"
"The second brother traveled west, following the line of the horizon, with his shadow stretching out very long behind him. He too, sometimes looked back because he was missed the company of his siblings, and felt sad because he wanted to see the smile and the light in his sister's eyes return when she got well. He turned around again, and continued on his way, when he came upon a village.
The third youngest brother traveled without stopping, until he stopped to help an old man with a white beard, and
had fallen into a ditch by the roadside. The prince got out of the saddle, and gave the old man a hand, and some coins
to pay for a meal. The old man turned out to be a something of a hedge wizard. When told of the young prince's quest,
the old man gave him directions to the city where the magical elixir could be found.
And to show his gratitude to the young prince, with a warning: Once he reached the city he must never look around at its wonders, and once he obtains the vial of magical elixir he must never look back. If he looks back the traps and magics of the city were designed to trap the unwary."
"What happens if he looks back?"
"Anyone who failed to heed the warnings would be turned to stone."
"That could never happen, it's not real."
"Didn't say it would be real, it's just part of the story."
"Did he make it?"
"I don't remember. I imagine the prince did, because he made it back to the kingdom and his sister got better and everyone lived happily ever after."
Dylan blinked and the light that came in through the floor to ceiling windows dazzled his eyes. He moved forward to close the blinds and had just reached out a hand to when he abruptly realized that his comfortable surroundings and the aroma of black coffee and fresh daisies in bloom; were replaced by the clean smell of salt and sand and the wide-open sky. He found that he stood on the shore of a deep blue ocean with waves lapping at his bare ankles, the sun beat down on his head and he could see the fuzzy yellow ball of the sun in the sky.
A bank of clouds rolled in covering the sun, turning the sky a dull shade of pewter, then the first few preliminary drops of rain came down on his upturned face. In the distance the screech of high-flying gulls made him think of a teapot screeching on a hot stove. In the next instant the ocean, the gray sky, the clouds and ocean birds vanished.
Is This Reality?
Dylan drifted off and the hallucination of the ocean view faded into his subconcisous. The momentary thought crossed his mind of why he would be thinking of oceans and storms when he should be attending to the coffee in case it burned, when his wife Liandra came into the kitchen, her hair pinned up with combs, but in a tangled mess. The look in her blue eyes convinced Dylan that he should refrain from making any comparison of it to a bird's nest.
"I heard only part of the story you were telling to the boy." Liandra yawned." It's like I've been telling you all along, Dylan, sometimes the little things in life take precedence over all the big causes in the universe that you are so fond of championing."
"If I don't, who will?" Dylan, said, ignoring the undercurrent of rebuke in her voice.
"The universe can stand to do without you for a while. Take a break, you're long overdue for a vacation."
"You knew when you married me that I was a career soldier." Dylan blinked, and a dozen memories came flooding back from another place and time; of people who had been important to him during his service in the Commonwealth's High Guard; of ships and the emptiness of velvet black space, dotted with the light of innumerable stars.
"Yes, but even soldiers come home to their families." Liandra remarked, jolting Dylan out of his momentary disorientation.
Dylan had begun to get a little irritated with this conversation, one they had had before but never within hearing of their son, Ethan. The boy had found his building set and was quietly assembling them into a haphazard shape that resembled the mobile hanging in the living room. When he glanced up again the light reflected in his wife's blue eyes turning them a disconcerting shade of red, like the retina glow of flash photography.
Dylan stood up and paced back and forth in front of the kitchen counter. "If you're trying to get me to resign my commission in the High Guard, I'll tell you right now, that it's not going to happen."
She stood up and came forward, arms extended, the red glow increasing in intensity. "Oh, it could happen." Her voice had changed, deeper and somehow more intimidating.
"This is not happening! It isn't real. You're not real…"
"That's the tricky part about waking nightmares, Dylan Hunt, you never know if you're the one in control."
"That's the point, isn't it." Dylan sighed.
Beka's knuckles were white with tension and from keeping such a tight grip on her ship's helm controls. Tyr's smug expression's mirrored in the metal walls of the pilot's compartment did very little to boost her confidence that they could pull off this latest hair-brained stunt of Captain Dylan Hunt. It wasn't helping matters that it involved risking her ship and her hide in the Eureka Maru.
Tyr's image momentarily disappeared from her line of sight and she refused to take her attention away from the
forward view screen and the her display console to turn her head and find out what in the hell he was up to.
The piloting deserved concentration, pressure was building up from their proximity to the event horizon of the black
hole. In the back of her mind Beka wondered if Dylan had a kind of psychosomatic trigger in his brain that made him
such a risk taker. She just wished that if he wanted to pursue this crazy scheme. If he had stopped to think it over,
he woul nott drag the rest of the crew along with him.
On the heels of that thought, Tyr showed up again, this time dressed in another EVA suit. "Don't tell me you're going out there, too?" Beka demanded, "How much longer will his suit hold with the depleted oxygen reserves?"
"Not long enough," Tyr replied.
"The cables are still attached, we can haul him in when he sends the signal. This is as close to the big, dark scary as I get."
"You've been closer than this, when the Maru first salvaged the Andromeda." Tyr pointed out, pragmatic as always.
"Point taken, but back then we didn't know that there was anyone alive on board." Beka adjusted the helm in response as the ship shuddered violently, bright red and yellow indicator lights on her console flashing erratically. Strapped into the pilot seat as she was, Beka felt every shudder and jolt as if it were an attack on her person. "When we get Dylan out of this mess, he is so gonna pay for putting me through this."
"Big surprise," Tyr remarked, checking and rechecking the seals of his suit.
"Why, I didn't you know you cared," Beka remarked, trying to get a rise out of the normally unflappable Nitezchzean.
"Caring does not have anything to do with this. It comes down to a matter of survival. As you say, we are in this situation because we chose to be. . Now, at the risk of his life and ours. We need to salvage what we can out of the situation. If it means leaving the relative safety of the ship and entering the vacuum of space..." Tyr shrugged. "So be it."
"Tyr." Beka began, then snickered. "I've known you long enough to read between the lines, and loosely translated from smug, protect my own skin Nietzchzean, that means you do care."
"Just order the Maru to open the nearest airlock and have the cables ready to attach to my suit."
"Consider it done," Beka replied.
Dylan blinked, his eyes burning from exposure, and lack of oxygen. He realized that up until now everything that he had experienced was a series of fever dreams, but he did not feel as if he were drowning. Through the suit's audio pickup he heard Beka and Tyr warning him of his present predicament: Here he was straddling yet another event horizon of a black hole.
Gallows humor was kicking in, and it occurred to him that this is exactly where he came into this universe. He was nothing if not a survivor, but floating on the end of his tether line, that connected him to the Eureka Maru, and he was hardly in a position to help or hinder his predicament. A chilling thought crept down the arch of his spine; he might not survive this one. The sealing ring on the front of his suit popped and the oxygen began slowly seeping out with a slow whine and a hissing sound.
He began kicking with his legs, thinking it might help slowly reduce his inertia. Better than simply floating in the vacuum of space, when his tether line broke. Dylan was sent spinning out of control, arms wind-milling, when a large metal cable wrapped around his middle, a jerked him back in the direction of relative safety.
Moments later Tyr arrived in another intact EVA suit, through the clear face shield of the helmet, Dylan could tell that the other man was straining, thick black hair plastered to his face by sweat, teeth clenched. Dylan was never one to look a gift horse in the mouth, right at the present time, he had never been happier to see the Nietzchzean's face as he was at this instant. Through the communication pickup, "Dylan, stop getting into these messes, next time I won't be around to save your sorry hide."
"Get us back to the Maru, and I'll remember that for next time."
'Temper, temper, you anachronistic relic," Tyr replied, and then responding to Beka's urgent hail, "We are making our return, open the hangar bay doors." And they slowly were tugged back at the insistent and inexorable pull of the buckler cables.
Safe and sound. His hair still dripping wet from his shower, Dylan sat back in his chair, arms lifted behind his head in a spine-cracking stretch, the last of the tension draining from mind and body. A part of him wondered if the elaborate hallucination that he had just experienced was just his subconscious telling him all the things of the good life he would be missing out on due to his decision to pursue a career in the High Guard. The agent of the Abyss' manipulation to get him out of the way notwithstanding, that he would deal with at a later date.
Even if there were no more high Guard, the Commonwealth nothing more than a bygone memory and its ideals and influence held onto' What did Tyr call me, an anachronistic relic, that was it," Dylan said aloud, "someone has to soldier, someone has to carry the flame forward. And that someone is me."