Disclaimer: Andromeda is the sole property of Tribune. Not making any money. And here's a nod to Robert Wolfe who made these stories happen. They really are his, you know.

SPOILERS NOTICE: Spoileriffic for the first season finale!



3 Keeping the Nightmares

Deal, they told me.

I was eight years old, my dog was twice my age, and he died. There was nothing I could do about it.

I was eight years old and I've had him since forever, and he was never supposed to die. Nobody was ever supposed to die on Tarn-Verdra back in the old days. Nobody was ever supposed to get hurt, nothing bad was ever supposed to happen. I was eight years old, and I was safe, and I was going to have a perfect life, and nothing was supposed to go wrong.

I thought so.

He died, like everyone eventually does, and I stopped eating, and I stopped sleeping, and all I would do was scream at my parents, at everyone, that I wanted it back.

They hugged me, comforted me, got me another little puppy, but all I could think of was that it was also going to die. I didn't want it to happen ever again.

Then they gave up, had enough of my screaming and refusal to see reality.

Deal, they told me. The universe can't hear you scream.

I dealt.

And later in the High Guard, I was Cadet Dylan Hunt still wet behind the ears, and Julie Stevenson was just ahead of me in the rankings at graduation, and she got posted on the Diplomatic Victory. And I was stuck in Base waiting for an assignment till I started breaking things. It wasn't supposed to go like this. I was having nightmares of walking up to Admiral Stark and looking her in the eyes as she'd tell me I didn't qualify for a starship. Deal, she'd tell me.

But it wasn't supposed to happen like this. Nobody was supposed to leave me behind in the dust. My life was going to be perfect, High Guard officer on a beautiful ship of the line. Nothing was supposed to stop it, delay it or deny it to me. The path was clear and I was going to walk it. I was a promising cadet, and I was young and eager, and everything seemed so good just days before.

Deal, Julie told me when she came to visit, or you'll destroy yourself.

I dealt.

I got my first command after a top-secret assignment. I'm not supposed to tell you about it, not one word. I got promoted, I got a crew, I got the Andromeda Ascendant and went to roam three galaxies, pushed up by the blood of others.

In the captain's chair I felt ashamed of myself. This wasn't how it was supposed to happen. My mission was to be one of peace, one of discovery. I was a citizen of the glorious Systems' Commonwealth, and my hands weren't supposed to be bloodied, my captain's chair wasn't supposed to be impure. Nothing happened as it should have, and I'd have nightmares, terrible nightmares of the people I killed and the planets I've ruined. My life wasn't supposed to have a stain of them, my pride wasn't supposed to be shadowed. It was wrong, all wrong.

Deal, Rhade told me, you got what you got, enjoy it.

I dealt.

The Commonwealth was ages old, strong, stable and peaceful. I was a High Guard officer, captain of a ship of the line, beautiful fiancée, great friends, perfect life. It was shattered.

The Commonwealth, fallen, gone perhaps forever. One battle, and it was all over for us. The ship abandoned, crippled, not even a warning got through. The crew escaped far away. And me. three hundred years later, I'm here in a world I've never made. Nothing of my perfect life, the life I was supposed to have, that nothing was supposed to disrupt, was left.

Deal, Beka told me, Harper and Tyr told me. Deal, it's over, it happened, there's nothing you can do about it.

Nightmares, every night, recurring, overwhelming, terrible, nightmares until I was afraid to go to sleep. The black hole open like a monster's jaws, millions of Neitzchean ship surrounding the Andromeda. Explosions, battles, every night all over, the lives lost, the ships destroyed, Twilight, Khalid, Sarah, Rhade's body on the bridge's floor. Learning the history, reading of the horrors, how Tarn-Verdra was cut off, the Magog raids on Earth, even the fall of the Neitzschean alliance. Knowing I failed to help, what could've happen if I hadn't.

This wasn't how life was supposed to treat me; this wasn't how things were supposed to happen. Nothing like that was supposed to happen, wars and treason and death. I wasn't supposed to be here three hundred years away from everything I cared for, everything I had. I was a High Guard Captain, I was supposed to triumph over all, I was supposed to see the sights and go home to my loving family, not to be lost in some battle now long forgotten. It should never have happened that way.

I dealt.

A year later, everything all over again.

Again, nothing I could do, nothing any of us could do. Rommie's programming went insane, we were taken deep into unknown space, down slipstream routs no one has ever charted before. Then the ship is overtaken, the hopeless battle, the rescue operation. I've been through it all before, and it was supposed to have gone well, it was supposed to have ended well. No one was supposed to get hurt, nothing bad was supposed to have happened. Everything was supposed to be perfect. I thought everything would be perfect.

Look at them. look at them all, my crew, my poor, ravaged, desperate crew. my beautiful, crushed ship. my hopeless mission. my life. my perfect life.

It wasn't supposed to have happened that way! How much pain can fate deal a man? How many blows can he take? How many hopes can he lose, how many things can go wrong? Why am I helpless, always helpless to stop them?

Nightmares. I've grown used to them. They'll go away in a while, as will the depression, as will the lack of appetite, the flashbacks, the tight feeling attacking the chest, the sudden memories. they'll go away in a while, so I've learned. In the meantime, I have to be strong, for all of them. Wherever fate will take me, I won't fight it this time. Let it take me, let it have its way. I'll deal.

Deal. There's a hole twenty feet across in Rommie's hull, it'll take weeks to fix.

Deal. Harper's been infested, things eating at his insides, who knows how long he has left.

Deal. Rev's half-crazy, doesn't work, doesn't eat, doesn't tell us what's wrong.

Deal. Beka will never get over the Nova Bomb affair, never be truly confident.

Deal. The corridors reek with blood, the decks are covered with bodies, and all of us walking them like ghosts, not talking, working mechanically, faking smiles like we really made it through and everything's going to be all right. Faking hope.

Deal. Because someone has to.

The universe can't hear you scream, you'll destroy yourself, you got what you got, it happened, there's nothing you can do about it.

It will happen again. Get up, get over it, deal, and I will.

But I think I'll be keeping the nightmares.