I don't own anything Andromeda.

Set right after the med-deck scene during D Minus Zero

D Plus One

She didn't get far after parting ways with Dylan on med-deck. Three turns further down the ramps Captain Valentine had to abruptly halt her stride, preventing herself only just from nearly sailing right through the holographic body of the Andromeda Ascendant.

"Miss Valentine!"

The blonde's eyes narrowed.

"Whatever it is, Andromeda: be a good ship and go bug your own captain. Now is not a good time..."

"I'm afraid I must insist, Miss Valentine..."

"Oh really? And if I don't comply? Do you plan on cutting off my air supply?" The woman's voice became sharper, her expression more irritated.

The small, wonderful features in front of her lost some of their impassivity.

"There are ways..." the image said thoughtfully, arms crossed behind her back, the calmness of her tone rendering her phrase even more menacing than Beka already knew it to be. For a moment she eyed the delicate figure with a slightly disgusted expression, whether at the ship's insistence or about her own inability to shake her off no-one could say. Not even Beka. But then the pilot leaned against the next ladder leading to the upper deck, a resigned look in her eyes.

"Very well, Andromeda, carry on."

"Miss Valentine..."

"Captain Valentine," the taller woman hissed sharply.

"Not my captain," the ship shot back, equally sharp.

"Indeed not, thank Heavens!" Beka retorted, her eyes sternly drilling into the dark ones below her own. "Still captain. Of a ship your captain just messed up with. So: if you don't mind making this quick... I really need to get going. "

There was a brief silence, the Andromeda's hologram scrutinising the sassy young woman in front of her with a decisively disapproving glare.

"Well?..." Rebekkah Valentine urged her, unimpressed. "Talking or cutting air supply, which one is it gonna be?"

"What if I haven't made up my mind yet?"

"Careful! If you put my life in danger your golden boy will be rushing to my rescue like a madman; and with me incapacitated, the others busy and you on the war path chances are pretty good he'll end up hurting himself in the process..."

"That's enough!" Andromeda thundered. "If you persist in that disrespectful attitude towards Captain Hunt I do think, Captain Valentine," she stressed insolently. "that it might indeed be best if you and your... 'crew' left us again as soon as possible."

The tall, slim woman looked at her haughtily.

"I thought we were supposed to be your crew, as well. Yours and... the Little Prince's trusted staff," she finally drawled lazily, a challenging, a bit creepy undertone in her voice, accompanied by a mean gleam in her eyes.

The ship's persona looked sternly back at her.

"Like I said: under these circumstances I think it might be best if we part ways again..."

"And do you think Sir Galahad shares your views on the matter?" Beka inquired calmly.

"You sure know your human mythology..." the avatar coldly remarked.

"I am being offered a crash-course in heroic foolishness as of late," the pilot deadpanned.

"Heroic foolishness can at times look different when standing on the bridge of a Commonwealth ship of the line," Andromeda tried to remind the woman of her limited experience in this respect.

Beka shrugged indifferently.

"Oh well, you know what they say: the higher they come, the... dumber they fall..."

The petite, frail looking image threw her head back in contempt.

"And yet," she ventured, "it looks as if he and I are still standing tall!"

"Rhymes? Don't go epic on me. Your captain is taking care of that already," the blonde snarled derisively. "You haven't been around for very long, Andromeda. Not here, anyway. You may be still standing tall, but only just. And the way you've come off so far, I fear that you've not given the manner in which you will eventually have to come down much thought."

"Again: if you're so scared, why don't you just leave?"

"Partly because little Lord Fauntleroy had Harper do something to my ship that might endanger it, if I take it out of the corona." She shut up for a moment, but then continued: "But mainly because I said I'll stick around for a bit longer. Because me and mine, we're no quitters. But we've come closer to doom once too often under your captain's esteemed leadership than I for one care to try. So if you don't mind: I am through with picking up the Commonwealth's blowing banner from Dylan, just so I can gloriously go down with it."

"Meaning?" the avatar hissed at her through her teeth.

"Meaning that for now I'm calling off the valiant downfall of the last stronghold of civilisation and suggest that we concentrate on gathering our strength, focusing our combined skills and forces and staying alive. For a change."

"It's not as if Dylan were opposed to that," Andromeda began defending her captain. "In fact, he is the most considerate, compassionate, caring commanding officer I ever had. I don't know how you've come to the idea that he might recklessly risk..."

"Gee, I don't know," Beka interrupted her cynically, "it might have something to do with the fact that he was the officer under whose command the Commonwealth's flagship entered its final battle before the Fall - and lost."

"It was a trap," the hologram said in a stubborn tone, "it was NOT his fault."

"He is the skipper, EVERYTHING happening here is HIS fault, HIS responsibility..."

Both women kept staring at each other, both with narrowed, flashing eyes, slowly beginning to encircle one another at a moderate pace in the narrow space of the corridor.

"It went so fast..." Andromeda tried anew.

"Yeah," Beka threw in, "the laws of physics: speed often ends with a bang. And then one has to face the final curtain. But this is not quite what I signed up for."

"Speaking of which: what DID you sign up for?"

"Security," the pilot curtly admitted.

"That's an illusion," the ship's persona brought forward.

Beka looked at her as if considering how much she had to tell her to make her understand.

"Andromeda, how old are you?"


"Your age... How old are you?"

"Minus the 303 years? I was commissioned 62 years ago," the android replied.

"And Dylan?"

"39... What's that got to do with everything?"

"How many of those years did you and Dylan spend fighting for your lives? How often did it happen to you to have to face death before the Fall?"

The exotic looking face looked bewildered.

"I... don't know..." she admitted hesitatingly. "Me... maybe... three times?"

"And your captain?"

The hologram shrugged.

"I don't know. He was... he was handling... all sorts of different assignments before he took command of me..."

"He's a Special Ops-guy?" Beka shook her head. "Go figure..." For a moment she seemed lost in thought, but then shrugged anew. "Anyway: what do you think? How often did he have to fight for his life?"

"I really have no idea."

"Well, guess. Five times? Ten times?"

"Maybe," Andromeda conceded.

Rebekkah Valentine nodded thoughtfully.

"I'm 27 years old. I can't remember to have spent more than three weeks of my life in a row without having to face a life-threatening situation. I have no idea where Trance comes from, but with the universe in the shape it is in, chances for her life to have looked any better are slim. I know for a fact that Harper's life before he joined us was hell. Rev's a Magog, so I trust you can do the maths on him pretty easily. And even Tyr's a mercenary, a former slave-child in the Dragan mines and had his entire people wiped out in front of his eyes at the age of ten. And you know what? Compared to the lives of those kids on that station, we all look really peachy..."

"What are you trying to say?"

"I guess what I'm trying to say is that we all have learned the hard way to survive in this universe you and Dylan know absolutely nothing about. That we learned that our times are not only harsh, but pitiless. That we all don't like to spur the horse we've been chained to. And that none of us wants to join the choir of heroic war-songs any sooner than absolutely necessary."

"In that case you really are in the wrong place at the wrong time here. Dylan has his mind set on restoring the Commonwealth, peace and prosperity for all of you, regardless if you want it or not. And I'll protect him to the very end, as it is my duty."

"You'll protect him no matter what your duty might be, because you're scared to death of being left alone with us, in a world you've never been programmed for. And Dylan's mind is set on doing everything he can to block away the pain he's feeling, even if it kills him. What you want, is Dylan. What he wants is to turn back the tide..."

"And you?"

"I want a better chance to survive. A... more accurate, more likely to succeed 'illusion' of security, with a realer feel to it, if you so like. If that means doing everything I can in order to keep you and your starry-eyed High Guard puppy in one piece, so be it."

"Which means?"

"Which means that you better adjust to the fact that I – that we all are here to stay. On our own terms and loudly speaking our minds when your white knight will try to endanger our lives the next time..."

"He won't..."

"Yes, he will. He will stand there like he stood amidst those kids: at least ten centimetres taller than everyone but Tyr, broad-shouldered, fit, well-fed, showered and clean-shaven in his fancy uniform, indecently healthy from his toes' nails to the last of his teeth, with his nice, educated speeches uttered in his polite, well-bred voice and no clue whatsoever about what this time is really all about. From now on though, I'll stand there too, right by his side and do my best to somewhat curb the enthusiasm with which he likes to throw away our lives as if we all had an endless supply of spare lives somewhere in store."

"What if I don't trust you with him?"

Beka raised an ironic eyebrow at that.

"Trust me with him in what respect? You really don't have to worry, Andromeda: I hold my life in high regard – and no male butt in a tailored High Guard uniform is likely to change that, no matter how gorgeous it might be... You can trust me with him – and come to terms with the fact that for the time being I'm here to stay. Just think of me as a... persistent stain on the immaculate fabric of your captain's pants."

"You're impertinent," the hologram barked, her eyes in flames.

"And you're just proving my point. You are a war-ship, dammit! How are you supposed to keep him and us alive and safe and in one piece, restore the Commonwealth and secure peace and justice, if you're already hurt in your ladylike sensibility by a tasteless joke? Staying alive and fighting day in, day out is a dirty, messy business, Andromeda."

"One can be efficient, one can even be deadly without being rude..."

"Not here, not in these times..." Beka disagreed. "Better get used to it." And with that she turned around and started to walk away.

"What about Dylan?" the ship called after. The woman stopped and faced her again.

"What about him?"

"If these are your terms…"

Beka shook her head.

"Not my terms. Our reality's terms," she stressed, a bit distant.

"Very well, your reality's terms," Andromeda acquiesced lightly annoyed. "Still: what's to become of him under such circumstances?"

For a brief moment the blonde watched her in silence. And then she shrugged:

"He'll grow up. Because if not, no matter what he wants:he WILL die trying - of an undoubtedly very heroic and highly untimely death."

Andromeda frowned. Under the chilling layer of ice in Beka's voice was something she couldn't quite identify. But then, as she watched the XO she was stuck with disappear up the ladder, it came to her: well hidden behind her walls of cynicism and harshness, Rebekkah Valentine was feeling sadness… and regret.

And all of a sudden, despite her rationalizing, Andromeda felt herself beginning to see the woman she had so far convinced herself to be detesting in a new light; one that looked almost suspiciously like trust.