One More Time...

Summary: When Trance gets sick, her daughter shows up to help bring about Trance's 'perfect possible future'.

Rating: PG-13

Disclaimer: I don't own them (except Zelazny). I just enjoy getting inside of their heads from time to time.

Note: Zelazny, Trance's daughter, first shows up in my Andromeda fanfic titled "Zelazny".

Feedback: Yes, please. Feed me, feed me!!! (The more you feed back, the more I'm likely to write...)

Chapter 1 -- Things Fall Apart

Harper looked up as Dylan entered the medical-bay. "Hey, Dylan. No change." He sighed and glanced down at Trance, shaking his head. "The only way I can tell that she's still alive is that every few hours she tries to get up and start raving like a Flash-fried..." Harper trailed off, shaking his head. "What are we going to do, Dylan?"

Dylan shrugged apologetically. "I don't know, Harper. I really have no idea. None of us know enough about Trance to even guess at what's wrong with her, let alone how to fix it."

"So, we do nothing?" Harper asked, frowning.

"No, not at all. Rommie's searching her data-bases and we're talking to everyone we know who might have any idea..."

"Nothing..." Harper repeated quietly. "She's so pale, Dylan."

"Get some sleep, Harper."

"No, no, no." He shook his head. "Someone needs to stay with her." They had found her, two days ago, walking on a guardrail in the engine-core as if it had been a balance beam, seemingly unaware of what she had been doing. Harper had not left her side since.

"I know. I'll do it. You get some sleep. That's an order."

Harper nodded. "Okay, fine." Sighing, he glanced down at Trance. "I'm going to figure out what's wrong with you, Trance, and I am going to fix it. I promise."

She slowly opened her eyes. "You died, I remember..." she said softly.

Harper frowned and shook his head. "No, Trance, you saved me..."

"Oh." She closed her eyes again, but opened them again quickly. "If you say so. I... I didn't remember." She sat up. "What's wrong with me?"

"We don't know yet..." Harper told her. "Lay back down, Trance. You're weak."

"I don't feel weak..." Trance protested, frowning uncertainly. "I want to take a walk."

"I don't think so." Dylan put his hand on her arm.

She looked up at him. "I'm sorry, Dylan. I'll do better next time, I promise. Can I take a walk?"

He shook his head. "Sorry, Trance. You're too sick to leave the med-bay."

"Am I sick?" Trance frowned and shook her head. "I can't be. I never get sick."

Dylan shrugged. "Well, you have."

"You're wrong. Let me go." She slid out of the bed and started for the door. "It's hot in here. I want to go outside!"

"Trance!" Dylan grabbed her arm and pulled her back towards the bed. With Harper's help, he forced her to sit on it. "Define 'outside', Trance."

"Outside where it's not hot. Outside where I can get nice and cool really fast."

"You mean outside the ship?" Dylan asked.

"Uh-huh." Trance nodded cheerfully, swinging her legs. "Do you like poetry, Dylan?"

"Poetry?" Dylan asked.

"Oh, God, not again!" Harper snapped, covering his ears and walking into another room.

"Things fall apart," Trance recited, her voice taking on the intonation of a schoolgirl repeating a lesson, "the center cannot hold. Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world. The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere..." Trance paused, giving Dylan an unsettling smile. "And everywhere... the ceremony of innocence is drowned." She jumped to her feet and darted past Dylan, into the corridor.

"Trance!" Dylan shouted, running after her.

"I have her, Dylan..." Tyr announced, carrying Trance back towards the med-bay. "It's really just as well that she has trouble staying conscious for long periods." He helped Dylan and Harper put her back to bed. "At this point, perhaps it would be wise to consider restraint."

Dylan stared at Tyr, then nodded. "You could have something, Tyr. Harper, go get some sleep."

Harper gave Trance one last glance and fled the med-bay.

Tyr frowned after him. "How long has it been since he has slept?"

"Not since he found Trance."

Tyr nodded, frowning. "Do we know what is wrong with her yet?"

Dylan shook his head. "Not a clue, Tyr."

"This can not go on indefinitely."

"I'm aware of that, Tyr, but I'm not about to give up on her."

"I am not suggesting any such thing. Trance is a useful member of this crew. Her loss would be... regrettable." Tyr stared down at her. "We must seek out other members of her species. They may know how to treat her."

"Yeah, good luck finding any. I know I've never seen another one like Trance. Have you?"

Tyr scowled. "No... I have not."

"Okay. We'll... ask around, then."

Tyr nodded. "I will stay with her."

"Are you sure?"

Tyr nodded and held up a book. "It will give me time to get some reading done."

"Nietzsche." Dylan shrugged. "Call when you need someone to take over for you."

Tyr scoffed. "I imagine that Harper will wish to resume his post by then."

***

Harper had not been able to sleep, so he had sat on his bunk staring into the darkness, thinking. Zelazny. We need Zelazny. But how do we find her? Harper sighed and rested his head on his pillow. He closed his eyes and heard Rommie's voice.

"Harper?"

"Yeah, Rommie?" he asked, sitting up quickly. "Is it Trance? Is something wrong?"

"Her condition is unchanged. However, you are required on the bridge."

Harper frowned, but shrugged and started for the bridge. "Hey, guys, what's up?" he asked.

Tyr turned to face him. "This... creature claims to know you."

A cute purple face peered around Tyr's massive frame and waved at Harper. "Hello again, Harper."

"Zelazny?" Harper asked, frowning.

"Did you just call her... Zelazny?" Rommie asked.

 Zelazny shrugged. "It's my name. Can I see my mom now?"

"Trance is your mother?" Dylan asked.

"I see the resemblance..." Tyr observed quietly, walking around Zelazny and looking her over. "She has her mother's... tail."

Zelazny folded her arms over her chest. "Very clever, Ubber. Did you come up with that all by yourself?" she asked, smiling sardonically.

Tyr growled and turned his attention to Harper. "You do, in fact, know this creature?"

Doing his best not to look as amused as he felt, Harper nodded. "Yeah, we met a few months ago on Telcroft Drift."

"And she is, as she claims, Trance's daughter?" Rommie asked.

Harper nodded. "According to Trance, yeah."

Zelazny folded her hands behind her back. "Shall I explain, Harper, or would you rather?"

"You do it. Temporal mechanics give me a headache."

"Better than a tummy-ache." Zelazny smiled at him and turned to face Dylan. "It's really quite simple, sir. Trance gave birth to me at some point in your future. In order to preserve my own existence, I came into the past at the same time as she traded places with her younger self. Otherwise, I would have simply ceased to be."

"So... why haven't you shown up before?" Beka asked, frowning.

"Simply to avoid causing her undue embarrassment and distress. I think I like you better with red hair, Aunt Beka." She smiled apologetically.

"What do you mean when you say 'undue embarrassment and distress'?" Dylan asked her.

"There would have been many questions, sir. I assumed that you would have a hard enough time accepting the new her without throwing me into the mix. Was I wrong?"

"Not really." Harper shrugged. "We all gave her a pretty hard time at first."

"May I see her now, sir?"

"Can you make her better?" Dylan asked.

"Without any idea of what's wrong with her, I can't say. I certainly hope I can. It was my intent in coming, sir."

"How did you know she was sick in the first place."

"She's my mother, sir. I just know."

"The med-bay is..."

"This way, I know." Zelazny walked unerringly to the med-bay and walked right up to Trance. "Mom..." she whispered, taking her hand. "Can you hear me?"

Trance looked up at her, frowning in confusion. "You aren't here yet..."

Zelazny stared at her thoughtfully. "I am now. I came back through a temporal singularity."

"Oh..." Trance nodded and sat up. "Can I take a walk? They won't let me leave. It's no fair!"

"It's necessary, mom. You're sick."

Trance frowned. "I am?"

Zelazny nodded gently. "Yes. Now lie back down, okay. That's a good girl."

"What's wrong with her?" Harper asked.

Zelazny looked up slowly, not letting go of Trance's hand. "She's suffering a pretty significant level of temporal confusion. I think she thinks it's still the first time."

"The... first time?" Beka asked, frowning.

Zelazny nodded. "Yes, Aunt Beka. The first time. The time that she came back to prevent."

"At least that explains why she keeps insisting that I'm dead..." Harper muttered.

"Can I have a look at your scans of her?"

"We don't have any..." Dylan told her. "We've never been able to scan her."

"You're doing it wrong, then, sir. Run a scan now."

"It won't work."

"Please, sir..." Zelazny stared anxiously at him.

Dylan nodded. "Rommie, do it."

"Very well." Rommie quickly ran the scan and put the results on the med-bay's screen. "See?"

"Yes, I do. That's not normal at all."

"How can you tell? It doesn't read anything. Like always."

Zelazny tilted her head at Rommie. "Not like always. Yes, she's deflecting the scans, and yes, she always does, but, look, the refraction is different."

"Huh?" Beka asked.

"She's right." Rommie frowned. "Her body is deflecting the scanner in a different way than it normally does."

"What does it mean?" Tyr asked.

Zelazny stared thoughtfully at the screen. "By itself, that she's sick. It's the way that she's deflecting the scan that's of interest."

"How do you know all this?" Beka asked.

Without taking her attention from the screen, Zelazny explained, "I was born with all of the memories of my parents up to the instant of my conception. Mom knew it, so I know it."

Beka shrugged. "Interesting..."

"Useful..." Tyr muttered, smiling approvingly.

"Yeah. Well, it looks environmental."

"I beg your pardon?" Dylan asked, frowning.

Zelazny sighed. "She's being poisoned by something on the ship."

"Are you sure?" Rommie asked.

Zelazny nodded. "It's ninety-eight point nine-three percent certain."

Dylan nodded. "What are we looking for? Something in the air? The food? Water?"

"I would start with ambient radiation levels personally, sir." She shrugged. "But... that's just me."

"You heard the woman, Rommie."

"I'll... begin scanning, sir."

Dylan nodded. "Good. Um... Zelazny, how do we fix this?"

"Decontamination should begin reversing the illness, sir. Ultimately, though, the offending radiation source will have to be removed."

Dylan nodded. "Okay. That's... promising. I... want you to come with me and Rommie now."

"Why, sir?"

"We have some questions for you."

"Dylan..." Harper protested.

"It's okay, Harper." Zelazny smiled reassuringly at him. "I'm going to go with Dylan now, and we'll talk again later. Take care of my mom."

Harper nodded. "Yeah. Take it easy, Zelazny."

Zelazny smiled and winked as she followed Dylan and Rommie out of the med-bay. When they reached Dylan's ready-room, she stood in front of his desk, watching him curiously. "Yes, sir? You have questions that you don't want to ask in front of the others?"

Dylan nodded slowly. He took a deep breath and asked quickly, "Why is it that Rommie can obtain a partial scan of you, Zelazny?"

"My father was not a member of my mother's species. His species is readily scan-able so my physiology is incapable of completely deflecting scans. Thus the partial readings, sir."

Rommie caught Dylan's eye and nodded towards the door. "Wait here, please, Zelazny..." Dylan told her, following Rommie.

"Yes, sir."

"Sir, I can't tell if she's lying!" Rommie hissed when they were outside. She looked confused and more than a little frustrated.

"How can you not tell?"

Rommie sighed. "To tell if someone's lying, I read variations in respiration, pulse, blinking, galvanic skin response..."

Dylan nodded. "Can't you read those on her?"

"I can, but they haven't changed once since she boarded. Dylan, they didn't change when she stepped off of her ship and Tyr pulled a force-lance on her. It's like she was expecting it."

"If she is who she says, then she knows Tyr. Maybe she was expecting it."

"And expecting you to start questioning her about her parents?"

Dylan shrugged. "It's... possible. I say we give her the benefit of the doubt. While watching her very closely."

Rommie nodded.

Dylan smiled. "Okay, let's go find out who the father is."

"I can definitely tell you who it isn't."

Dylan stared at her.

"From what I've been able to get from my scans, I'm almost certain that her father was a human."

"You think it was anyone we know?"

"You mean you?" Rommie asked quietly.

Dylan frowned. "I don't know. I doubt it. I mean, Trance is nice, but..." He shook his head. "Not my type, Rommie." He paused. "You don't think it was... Harper?"

Rommie frowned. "It couldn't be. He would have died months ago. She would have had to have been pregnant by him when she changed places with her future self. I'm... pretty sure that they didn't have that kind of relationship."

"Let's find out." Dylan opened the door again.

"You want to know who my father is, don't you, sir?" Zelazny asked quietly. She was at the far end of the room, looking at the stars.

"What makes you think that?"

"It's the logical next question given where the last question was going. I think... I'm not sure I should tell you, sir. I don't think my mom would want... the person in question to know."

"Then it is someone on this ship?" Dylan asked.

Zelazny swallowed and slowly nodded. "Yes, sir."

Dylan looked at her thoughtfully. She suddenly looked very young and very vulnerable. "You can tell us. No one else has to know if you don't want them to."

"I want... I wouldn't mind if the... person in question was to know. I'm just not sure that mom wants him to."

"Why not?" Dylan asked.

"Because, things are hard enough with them already."

"It's Harper, isn't it?" Dylan asked gently. "That's why you're named after him?"

Zelazny stared at her feet. "Yes, sir."

"Do you want to tell me about it?"

She shook her head. "No, sir."

"You have his memories, too?"

She nodded. "Yes, sir."

"Okay. I'm going to have Rommie walk you to a guest-room, and when you get there I want you to get some rest."

"Yes, sir."

"You don't have to worry. We won't tell Harper if you don't want us to."

"You shouldn't, sir. If mom wanted him to know, I'm sure she would have told him by now."

Dylan nodded slowly. "Okay, Zelazny. You get some rest now."

She smiled shyly and nodded. "Yes, sir."

"The question," Dylan muttered to Rommie when she had returned, "is whether we talk to Trance about this or not?"

Rommie shrugged. "I'm not sure it's necessary, sir. I can see where Trance would want to keep the fact that she had a daughter with Harper secret. Their relationship lately has been tenuous. Zelazny is right. This would further complicate it."

Dylan sighed. "So, what do we do with Zelazny?"

"At present, we let her get a much-needed rest."

Dylan nodded. "Any luck locating her 'radiation source' yet?"

"Actually, yes." Rommie nodded. "There are definitely elevated levels of gamma and alpha radiation on the ship."

"Are they high enough to be dangerous to the rest of the crew?"

"Not yet, but a few months of constant exposure to those levels would be fatal to every human on board. Probably to Tyr as well."

"So Trance's getting sick has basically saved all of our lives?"

Rommie nodded. "Actually, it seems that Zelazny has saved all of your lives, Dylan."