This is all by Natasha if I could make her queen of Canada I would!! She rocks and because of my sudden vacation I had to leave the story and she took and made it fly. this is a great story. thanks for saving my butt Natasha you did a fantastic job!!!!!!

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ "Dammit!" Beka swore as sparks badly burned her hand. Angrily she yanked off the sleeve of her shirt and wrapped it around her good hand. First the environmental systems, now one of the tanks had ruptured and they were losing power. Fast. It didn't help that she couldn't see a damn thing- She suddenly heard a muffled shout, and something heavy clattering. Beka glanced up, puzzled, then slowly drew her blaster from its hoister. She walked towards the noise. A faint light lit the floor ahead. Beka could see that a flashlight had been dropped. Then she heard heavy panting. She whirled at the noise, her bad hand ready to fire. Harper was clinging onto a ladder, having just climbed up from the level above. His face was deathly pale. "Containment...breech..." he managed to whisper through white lips. Any angry words out of here were soon lost. A containment breech was more then serious. She wouldn't be able to fix it unless she used parts on the Andromeda, and even then she would need more time to fix it then the air allowed. She slung Harper's arm around her shoulder and helped him walk. "Monsters," he whispered, his blue eyes looking around deliriously. Beka's control snapped. "Harper, there are no monsters on this ship!" she shouted as they made their way to the E.V.A suits hung on the wall. She reached forwards to grab one and paused. There were long, horizontal slashes on both of the white plastic arms of the E.V.A suits. Beka checked the tanks. Both of the emergency air supplies were smashed. "No monsters. Right," Harper said sarcastically, leaning sickly against the wall. Beka bit back a bitter retort. Yelling at Harper in his state would do little good. With a growl she grabbed him again. She had to try to fix that leak! "Warning. Aft section depressurizing," the Maru said tonelessly. "Yeah, well what do you expect me to do about it!?" Beka shouted at the computer. "Environmental systems on drift restoring to nominal settings," the Maru said helpfully. Beka paused, one foot in the air. "How is that possible!? There's no one on the drift!" "Environmental systems restored." Beka growled and made her way to the airlock. "Forwards section depressurizing," the Maru said. "Shut up!" "They're toying with us, boss," Harper whispered, and giggled insanely. "Yeah, well, it doesn't seem like we've got a lot of choice," Beka snapped at him. She was completely unaware that her blaster had dropped from her belt and was now lying idly on the floor as she slowly walked away with Harper in her hands. "EMERGENCY. EMERGENCY. EVACUATE SHIP. EVACUATE SHIP."

Swearing, Beka continued to drag Harper towards the airlock separating the Eureka Maru and the drift. With a booted foot she kicked the button, and the massive door opened. Beka helped Harper through, and slammed on the button with the back of her hand. They were on the drift. Panting, Beka's strength gave out and she helped Harper sit down. Harper was also breathing very heavily. "Wait, Beka. We need....we need the gravity plating." He said, his head against the wall. His blond hair was damp with sweat and in thick clumps. "The gravity plating?" Beka echoed. "Harper, I've got maybe three minutes of air in the Maru left. There's no way I'll be able to get down to the engineering core and fetch it in that time!" With a great deal of effort Harper stared strongly into her blue eyes. "We need it!" he said, then he closed his eyes. Beka bowed her head, resigned. "All right. Will you be okay here?" Harper nodded weakly. Sighing heavily, Beka opened the airlock door again and went back into her old ship. She closed the door on her way out, safely sealing Harper on the other side. Very tired, Harper coughed wretchedly and sighed softly. He leaned his head back and closed his eyes, unaware of the two red eyes that were watching him.



Beka jumped off the steel ladder as the Maru's voice continued. She ran through the decks of her old ship as sirens began to blaze and steam from open pipes filled the corridors. The small beam of Harper's flashlight was barely enough to penetrate the gloom, and she smacked her head squarely on a ajar bar and almost fell. Just to add to the fun, Harper's flashlight was now out of power and flickered off entirely, leaving herself stranded on a ship with power barely enough for gravity. Beka stood for a moment, gathering her thoughts. She had once boasted to Rev that she could work on her ship entirely in the dark. She just hoped that she wasn't exaggerating. Her ears began to sharpen where her eyes had failed, and she heard the faint sound Harper had an old style radio in Engineering which played music sometimes. She groped her way towards the sound in the terrifying dark. She would never tell anyone, not even her old Maru crew her one greatest fear, and that was to die the vast emptiness of space just like her father. was so dark and quiet. No sounds at all. No one to help her. Not Harper. Not Dylan. Not anyone. She would die...and no one would help her. Beka closed her eyes as fear paralyzed her steps. Her breath came more frantic and rapid as she began to hyperventilate in little puffs of blue frost. "WARNING. COMPLETE DEPRESSURIZATION IN ONE MINUTE TWENTY SECONDS," the Maru shrieked.

Beka's blue eyes snapped open. Biting her lip in loathing and self-contempt of her own weakness, she pressed onwards, ignoring her own very real terror.


Harper gripped the green blanket tighter, the blanket which had fortunately snagged onto him as he ran screaming for Beka. It provided some warmth against the faint cold. He sat huddled against the airlock door, waiting anxiously for his captain. He was afraid, not that he would ever admit it. He wasn't really afraid of lack of noise. That much he could handle. What he really had trouble with was noises he couldn't understand. And on a large drift that had captured other spaceships, the only thing he could hear in the vast darkness was creaking, metal grinding, and the occasional chattering sound. It made him think back to the time when his parents had shoved him into a closet when the Neitzschean slavers had come for him. He remembered being in the darkness, listening. He was only a boy then. He had heard the sounds of scuffling, angry shouts, the sound of ripping cloth, his mother's scream, the blaster shots...and silence. Since then, he needed to know every little sound that roamed the corridors. He wished Beka was back. He desperately needed her to be back. Suddenly, he heard a very slow hiss, followed by another. The sounds of nails playfully rapping against metal. Footsteps moving closer. Harper clapped his hands against his ears. "Stop it!" He shouted, trembling. His eyes squeezed shut just before the darkness around him suddenly turned into an eerie blue mist.


Beka reached the engineering room. The entire place was almost powered down, and she could see that the slipstream core was dying. It was now a flickering green light instead of the normal white hue. It looked almost sick as Harper. Harper. Gravity plates. Beka looked around quickly and almost tripped over them. She found them still packed tightly together with a note on them. Beka read, 'Harper. Remember to install gravity plates after mother hen stops pestering you. Harper'. Beka exploded, "Hen!? He called me a mother hen!? When I find him I'll-" "WARNING. COMPLETE DEPRESSURIZATION IN FORTY SECONDS." Beka abandoned her ranting and jumped up the metal staircase eight steps at a time, the pressure plates in her hands. When the entrance door suddenly slammed shut in front of her. Angrily Beka touched the pressure button to open it. It wouldn't work. Now really concerned, Beka looked through the small see-through latch to the outside. Dylan stared back at her from the other side of the sealed-tight door. Grinning, he waved at her. "Dylan!" Beka said, and coughed. "Dylan, get me out of here!" She screamed.

Slowly, but deliberately, Dylan walked away. "Dammit, Dylan!" Beka shouted, then tried to pull the emergency lever. It snapped

cleanly in her hands. "WARNING. COMPLETE DEPRESSURIZATION IN TWENTY SECONDS." Wheezing, Beka closed her eyes and collapsed to the ground. The air was so thin she could barely breathe. Tears trailing down her blue eyes, and fear making her limps impossible to move, Beka had never felt so helpless before in her life.


Fourteen seconds later, Beka slammed her palm against the controls to the airlock door and tumbled to the other side. Her face was deathly pale, and her breath came in short little gasps. In her death-grip trembling hands was the gravity plating. Try as she might, she couldn't let it go as her head fell forwards onto the soft blanket.


"Dammit!" Harper swore, pumping her chest harder. "Breathe, boss! Please, breathe!" Sobbing, Harper pressed his lips against hers and forced breath into her lungs. Beka pushed him away, coughing. "Hey, we're not that close yet-" she managed to say. She blinked in the sudden bright light around her. She was in the Maru's medical bay, dressed in a blue medical outfit. Harper managed a small smile, relief flooding his face. "I thought you were dead." "It'll take more then a minor depressurization to stop Beka Valentine," Beka said. "Next time you tell me about that secondary hatch to the outside level, can you be a bit more specific?" She helped stand with Harper's brisk help. She glanced at his pale yet healthy skin, and he moved with an energetic spring to his step. It was as though he hadn't been sick at all. "You look better yourself." Harper shrugged, grinning as he put away a medical tool. "Oh, you know me. I get well fast. You've been out of it for quite a while. I managed to repair the Maru's main system with a supply of oxygen I found on the drift. I've already called the Andromeda. They're on their way to pick us up." Beka nodded in relief. The sooner they got out of this hell hole the better. Then she remembered something. "I think you were right about those monsters," she said to his turned back. "I certainly saw one in the form of Dylan. I hallucinated...I thought that he had left me to die." "Well, why wouldn't he?" Harper asked, honestly curious. Beka glanced at him. "Excuse me?" Eating an apple from the storage bin, Harper shrugged. "I mean, it's not as though you deserve to be rescued or anything." Beka stared at him in astonishment. "What do you-" "Beka, you freaked out twice," Trance said patiently, entering the medical bay. Her blue

eyes were filled with sorrow and concern. "If you can't even save yourself, why should we bother to save you? I know I wouldn't have. And, it's not like you're important or anything. You're a deadbeat, just like your father. You couldn't even handle flash by yourself." Harper bit the apple. "Stop me if I'm wrong, but it sounds like you're a little more trouble then you're worth," he said with his mouth full. "And you know that saving the universe and everything has certain requirements. Like people not freaking out every time a little darkness jumps on them. You're not important, anyway. What are they going to remember you as? The great salvage collector? The nameless person who found the famed hero Dylan Hunt?" Beka's eyes shifted as two monsters crawled up behind Harper. They had bluish, throbbing skin with terrifying black veins and red eyes. Their hands and feet were like claws. "Harper, there's-" "Yeah, I know. They're my new friends. You know, all they wanted was to be in the Commonwealth, believe it or not. But you didn't think they were good enough," Harper explained. Beka backed up as the monsters drew nearer. "Wha-!? What are you-" The monster suddenly lunged at her. Beka fell to the ground, screaming as one of the monsters drew up his claws and slashed at her eyes, her chest, her legs. She screamed and begged them to stop as the monsters ripped her apart with their huge claws. "Help! Help me!" Beka screamed her dying scream to Harper and Trance nearby. "So, what are you doing tonight, Trance?" Harper asked, still eating his apple. "We'll still have to bury her," Trance said, pointing at Beka's corpse.

"Aw, do we have to?" Harper complained just as Beka woke up.


Beka awoke to the darkness of the drift, still huddled in the green blanket. There was a dim light in front of her. She had emergency power, at least. And air. Sweet, wonderful air. She breathed in deeply and smiled a little. She had made it. That's when she noticed that Harper was missing. On the drift Beka stood slowly from Harper's blanket, fear gripping her insides once more. She looked around. "H..Harper?" she whispered. She had left him here not twenty minutes ago, by the airlock! His blanket and the few possessions he had managed to grab was still scattered around messily- an empty Sparky Cola, a full container of water, a pillow and his tool belt with tools scattered around the floor. Beka dug through them, and found another flashlight, barely better then the first. She shook it to life and looked around. "Harper?" She whispered around the gloom. She really began to worry. The drift was massive, with thousands of square meters. How could she possibly find him if he was bored and decided to explore?

She walked slowly, all of her senses on alert. She listened for the slightest noise, the slightest peep which would tell her where he was. Despite her swearing Beka was really beginning to worry. Harper knew the importance of staying in touch in all dangerous situations...but Harper wasn't really thinking too clearly. Maybe....maybe his monsters did get him after all. Beka closed her eyes, shutting out the thought of Harper being dragged away into the shadows, screaming for her..... A hand suddenly clamped down on her shoulder. Beka whirled around, and saw a greenish pig-like face stained with blood starring back at her. "Boo," whispered a dry voice. Beka dropped her flashlight and screamed. "AAARRRRRGGGHHHH!!!!!" The pig's face lifted, and Harper stared back at her, laughing. "Mwa ha ha ha ah ha!" Harper said, imitating an evil laugh. Beka's mouth closed. She tried to say something, but fury choked off any reply. She settled on hitting him sharply on the shoulder. "Ouch!" Harper said, touching his already-bruised shoulder. "Aw, come on boss, you above everyone said that you don't believe in monsters!" He was still grinning. "It's good to see that you still haven't lost your sick, twisted sense of humor," Beka snapped, but relief that he was all right flooded her eyes. "What are you doing here, anyway? I thought you agreed to stay put." Harper shrugged. "I was feeling a little better. Heard some noises. Got bored, so I thought that I should take a look. Saw nothing. I mean, no offense, boss, but you were taking so long-" "I got locked in the engineering room," Beka snapped, still angry. "I trust that wasn't one of your little practical jokes?" Harper shook his head, a little concerned. "No. So how did you get out?" "With barely enough time to spare, that's how! I found another exit to the upper levels," Beka said. She would never, ever tell him that she saw an apparition of Dylan or her nightmare, dismissing both as side-effects from lack of oxygen. "So, you are feeling better?" Harper shrugged. "Yeah, a little." He would never, ever tell her that he had lost control and ran shrieking away from the noises, and that the adrenaline was pretty much the only reason he felt so good. He lifted up the mask. "Found this little jewel on the floor. Someone obviously left a novelty mask on the floor before they left. I think it resembles a Centiur, but I'm not sure." Beka took the mask, feeling it carefully. "Um...Harper?" He glanced at her. "I don't think it's a mask," Beka said, glancing up at him. She grinned a little despite herself. "I don't think it's a mask at all." She had never known that Harper could shriek so much like a girl.


The next ten minutes they were sitting next to the airlock door on the blanket, the dim light of the flashlight providing the only illumination as Beka ran a scanner over the Centiur tissue, trying to determine the cause of death. Harper sat huddled, his face very pale, starring straight ahead. "I-I-I t-t-o-ouch-ed." "Harper, calm down! So you touched a real face-" "Not touched, Beka! Wore! I WORE a Centiur face!" Harper practically shrieked. "It felt just like a mask! And who knows how it died!? It could have been stabbed! It could have drunken poison! It could have poison that transmits along tissue-" "Or perhaps it didn't die at all," Beka said. Harper glanced at her in puzzlement. "Centuirs shed their tissues in the wintertime. They shed all their tissues, Harper. This could just be the remains of an ongoing process," Beka said patiently. "And since my scans didn't detect anything out of the ordinary, I assume that has to be the reason. The skeleton we found had long since decomposed. Everyone's probably been gone for years." "But what about the blood!?" Harper demanded.

Beka shrugged. "A simple cut obviously preserved somehow." Her hand touched the face, and her blue eyes suddenly noticed a green goo near its nose. Beka scanned it, but her scanner wasn't powerful enough to determine what it was. Beka checked the other side, but saw none of it. It didn't touch Harper's skin. She threw it away into the darkness. Harper cleared his throat, determined to talk about something else. He touched the gravity plates Beka had brought with her."You know I was thinking, about these gravity emitters, that if we install them on several areas of the drift, we could increase their power so much that anyone in that particular area would be literally trapped on the floor from the sheer force of gravity, or stuck to the ceiling from lack of gravity. I'm not saying that there are any monsters-" he said quickly, already beginning to see Beka's eyebrows raised. "But I'm saying that we have literal control of who comes and goes in this place." "And they would not be able to come anywhere near us," Beka said, already liking the plan. "But where would we install them?" Harper frowned. "That's going to be the tricky part. First of all, we would need to go to the main bridge of the drift to figure out where to put them." He suddenly closed his eyes, feeling very tired once more. He struggled to stay focused. "Or we can go onto the bridge of another ship, assuming that the ship's AI is functional and still tied into the computer grid of the drift. Either way should work." Beka drummed her fingers in thought. "Okay, so what are the pros and cons?"

"We try the drift's bridge, it'll take us at least an hour to get to it, and that's assuming that the elevators are still operational and that we know where it is right away, but it's the only assured way to do this. We try a ship stuck to the drift, they're right next door so it'll be a hell of a lot faster, but-" Harper yawned. "-we may have to try two or three before we find one that actually works." Beka stood. "We're forgetting one thing," she said. Harper glanced at her. "The Mila. It's a Commonwealth ship. One of Dylan's own favorites. I heard him talking about it often. We have a duty to try and figure out what happened to it....and if there's any survivors left. At the very least, we need to try to save the main AI just as we would try to save Andromeda. Mila's a Commonwealth officer as well," Beka said. "Duty," Harper echoed, standing with Beka's help. "You know, our lives were a lot less dangerous before we had a sense of high guard duty." "But a lot less interesting," Beka said. "Yeah, that too," Harper said. He itched at the bright pink spots on his skin miserably. They seemed to be all over his body now. As one, Harper and Beka kicked open the emergency storage cupboard on board the drift. Beka yanked it open. "Flashlights," she said, tossing Harper one and attaching another to her belt. She took out a food ration, sniffed it, winced, and discarded it immediately. The water wasn't any good either. She dug around, shifting through the blankets until she found a medical kit. To her surprise, the white kit was completely empty and cracked open. Throwing it away with an irritated growl, Beka finally took out two air canisters and masks. She ran them quickly through her scan. "This isn't contaminated. We may need it on the Mila."

Harper took the heavy canister without complaint. Beka was both delighted and relieved to see that Harper was finally getting a bit better, though she still forced him to drink the water container he had once every two minutes. His terrible paleness had retreated bit, and more life was in his blue eyes. Harper was looking around the empty drift with the flashlight. "From what I can tell, this is a very old drift, built during the Commonwealth...probably three hundred and eighty years ago." Beka looked around. All she saw was cobwebs and empty rooms. "That's amazing to figure out," she said. "Not really. I saw the date, see?" Harper pointed his flashlight at a golden plaque on the wall. "Created exactly as the same time as our good old Commonwealth." Beka shook her head. "Oh. So what is an ancient, powered-down drift doing pulling unsuspecting ships into its domain?"

"It's definitely not the best party spot I know of, though I do know worse then this," Harper muttered. He pointed. "And there's our beauty now!" Beka looked. She could see the docking bay with the Commonwealth ship Mila in tow. It looked almost exactly like the Andromeda, only a lot smaller. She put on her breathing mask on, inhaling slowly. She nodded to Harper, who put on his own mask as the two of them made their

way into the ship. ****************

It was eerie to walk down corridors that looked exactly like the Andromeda herself, only corridors which were empty and a bit dusty. The entire ship was powered down, and they could easily hear their own footsteps and the sound of them breathing through their own masks. Only gravity was still working, and emergency blue lights which barely illuminated the ship. It was spooky. "Mila, show yourself," Beka ordered, but the computer AI didn't appear. "HELLO?" Harper shouted in the bleak gloom. Nothing answered back. "We should head to the bridge," Beka said. "At the very least they might have logs which will tell us what's going on." Harper tapped the vent. "Looks like atmosphere was working...but it slowly degraded over time. That's why we still have some heat, but it won't be too long before we could freeze to death." "So the ship's been here for the past three hundred years?" Beka asked. "The only question, is...why? This drift isn't near any habital planets or significant star systems. It's just empty space here. It's a miraculous stroke of bad fortune that we managed to find it at all." "Oh great, and the harder for Andromeda to find us,"Harper said sarcastically. He paused. "The drift was made at exactly the same year as the Commonwealth. Beka, do you think the Commonwealth built it?" "If they did, it was probably for storage or something. They might had forgotten about it themselves." Beka frowned. "And at any rate, this isn't near any Commonwealth systems. It would make sense to build one nearer, or failing that, at least by some landmark." She sighed.

"Well, it's a mystery," she said softly, looking around. She picked up a small datapad and read it. "Mission log. It doesn't mention anything about a drift. Maybe they weren't expecting to be here either." Silence as they walked down the empty halls. Harper cleared his throat, obviously wanting to break the silence. "So what's the deal with this ship, anyway? I mean, why is Dylan so fond of it?" "While he was still in the Commonwealth, this ship saved the Andromeda during a terrible battle against the Than," Beka replied. "It disappeared even before the Commonwealth ended. I hate telling Dylan where it ended up." "At least it's still salvageable," Harper said hopefully. Beka paused. "Harper...have you been noticing the walls?" "No. Why?" Harper asked. Beka approached the wall and ran her fingers over something. They retreated with a gooey substance. "I sometimes find strays of bluish goo splattered around. On the walls, the floor. The scan isn't able to recognize it." "Then you probably shouldn't touch it!" Harper hissed at her. Beka shook it off her fingers, sighing. "We can use the sensors on the bridge. They're better." "I'm not so sure I want to go to the bridge," Harper muttered.


The bridge was exactly like the Andromeda. Harper turned, half-expecting to see Tyr at the weapons station or Dylan on the navigational seat. "Something wrong?" Beka asked him. "N..No," Harper stammered. "I just wish they had a little more variety in these ships." "The idea is to make people feel at home if they had to transfer to another ship," Beka

explained. Harper shuddered. "Well, right now home is eerily a little too close for me." Harper wiped the dust away from a station. "I've got partial scanners. Running a scan over the ship.'s saying that there's life signs all over the bridge. All crew accounted for." "But we saw none!" Beka protested, joining him. "Well, according to this, we ran into no less then fourteen people while coming here," Harper said, frowning. "Stupid thing must be busted." He hit it with his fist. "Unless..." Beka paused, then closed her eyes. "Unless that goey stuff was the crew!?" At Harper's look she said, "It could have been their DNA decomposition. That would account for the scanners getting confused." Harper looked positively sick. "I'm going to look for the Captain," he said, and activated the scanner. He closed his eyes. "What?" Beka demanded. "I'm standing on him," Harper replied, and lifted his shoe. A gooey substance was stuck underneath. "Ew," Beka remarked. Harper sighed, trying not to think about it. "I'm going to try to activate the AI." 'AI on emergency standby. Activate?' The station asked. Harper inputted, 'yes'. A sudden hologram flickered to life wearing a Commonwealth uniform. She had long, red hair, pale skin, and green eyes that stared upon them. "Who the hell are you?" she demanded, and without waiting for a reply she closed her eyes. "Internal defenses activated," they heard her voice over the ship. "Woah-wait!" Harper snapped. "We're friends of the Andromeda!" The woman's eyes snapped open. "Password!" She spat, her face in a snarl. "Um...password?" Harper asked weakly. He turned to Beka. "She might be broken," he whispered. "Your Commonwealth registration passwords. Now!" The AI demanded. "We're not...ah, we're not Commonwealth," Beka said. "Just as I thought!" Mila snapped, looking at them in disgust. "Activating internal

defenses!" "Woah. It's like the crazed Andromeda all over again," Harper said. Was he prone to

always wake up crazy AI's every year? Beka nudged him. "Harper, the Andromeda security code. Say it!" "Um....code one eight four double Perseid eight!" Harper managed to say. Mila glared at them suspiciously, but stood down her assault. "The password of my sister ship is valid authorization," she said, sounding seriously disappointed. "Activating shut-down

power." The bridge lit up, and they could hear the distant hum of power activated. The atmosphere was activated. Beka checked it, and nodded. Both she and Harper removed their air supply. "Where is Captain Reyans?" She demanded to both of them. "Errr...." Beka stammered, not really wanting to explain to the hologram that what was left of her Captain of eighteen years was currently residing underneath Harper's shoe. She looked to Harper for help. "Oh. He's um...he's um...he's um....he's um...." Harper repeated, stammering. Mila glared at both of them for a moment, then lowered her eyes. "He's dead, isn't he?" Harper and Beka nodded sadly. Mila's eyes were cold as ice. "Then I know what I must do." She closed her eyes and slowly dropped her head. 'AI termination in progress. AI termination in-' "Woah, stop!" Harper shouted. "What are you doing!?" She gave them a brief glance of annoyance. "My responsibility is to my Captain. My Captain is dead. Standard procedures dictates that I erase myself and any information that might

be compromised." "Old procedures, yes! But not the new ones! The new Commonwealth! It's been three hundred years since the old Commonwealth fell!" Harper shouted desperately. Mila stared at both of them, clearly not believe them. "The Commonwealth could never fall," she said, not without a hint of pride. "Mila Ascendant, what is the last thing you remember?" Beka asked her gently. The screen flickered to life, and Mila's digital face appeared. "Tell them nothing," the screen snarled. "That is classified information." "I disagree," the hologram retorted, who was clearly angry enough to desperately want to tell someone. "If you must know, I received a distress call to come here because of detained-" "Enough!" The screen snarled. The hologram looked uncertain. "I will only tell them recent events. The point is, I received a distress call. Eight thousand Commonwealth ships were dispatched." Harper folded his arms. "Pretty heavy amount for such a tiny drift," he remarked. "That is none of your business," the screen snarled at him. "It was a trap," the hologram continued. "We were instantly stuck to the drift with no way of escaping. We tried to find ways at first....but we didn't dare go into the drift. Eventually, our

combined crews had to." "So what happened?" Harper asked. "They all died," the screen said quickly before the hologram could reply. "Accidental causes. Radiation." Harper snorted. "Bull. Billions of people don't die accidently. We went through the drift just fine without any protection. So what the hell are you hiding?" "We don't answer to you," the screen sneered.

"Wait," the hologram said, and sighed. "They changed." Beka tilted her head. "Changed?" She echoed. She turned to Harper. "The monsters!?" The AI nodded. "Yes." "You mean...all this time, we were fighting three hundred year-old high guard officers?" Harper demanded. "Most are dead now from old age," the hologram said. "But they still contain and use all the knowledge they used to have. Some managed to reach stasis pods. In an effort to make sure that they didn't reach any of our stasis pods, we deactivated all power and released a deadly gas into the drift. We assumed that would kill them." "Yeah, well, I've got news for you, your brillian plan didn't work," Harper sneered. Beka put up her hand. "When was this?" The hologram gave a date before the fall. Beka beckoned Harper nearer to her. "Harper, if what this AI says is true, then over forty percent of the Commonwealth ships were missing from the war with the Neitzscheans. A pretty big number, don't you think?" Harper blinked at the realization. "Are you saying...that because of this one old drift in the nowhere of space, the High guard lost the war with the Neitzscheans and billions of worlds suffered three hundred years of torment, including my own!?" He was getting rapidly angry. "They didn't have the manpower," Beka whispered, her face grim. "And lost any chance of winning before they even started. Dylan's early warning would have made no difference." Harper said nothing for a long moment. "Great, just great," he whispered angrily, looking down. "So what do we do?" "If Dylan were here, then I would know what he would say," Beka said instantly. "He would want us to blow the hell out of this place." "What!?" Harper whispered sharply. He shook his head. "No, there's no possible way we can do that. This is a type-four drift." Beka glanced at him, puzzled. "A type-four!" Harper shrieked, forgetting that the Mila was starring at both of them

intently. "They don't even build a self-destruct back then!" Beka glanced down. "Damn," she said, biting her lips. "There has to be another way..." "There is," Mila interrupted coldly. "The only thing still operational on this drift is the field which attracts each ship like a magnet. The control station is on the eight level section G of the drift. We reverse the field, and it becomes negatively charge. All ships will drift away from the ship instantly. I still have enough power for weapons. I would be able to destroy the drift once I have reached a suitable distance." Harper put up his hand. "All right, two flaws. Number one, level eight section G is in the dead center of the ship. It's swarming with these previous very-ticked off Commonwealth monsters! We don't even have a workable blaster! How are we supposed to get eevn near that level? And, just assuming that one of us does eventually make it to the computer station, all the ships will discharge from the drift and will have no power to make it back! So how does that one person even get to a ship before you blow it to smithereens?" Mila's face grew even colder. "I do not have an answer to the first problem....yet, but I know my duty as a high guard officer. I would go in an instant myself if I could, and be thankful even as I draw my last breath!" "Well, I've got news for you, lady, we're not Commonwealth!" Harper snapped. "You're the only two that can!" Mila snapped, now getting rapidly angrier. "Are the two of you so low, so pitiful that you would not avenge the deaths of billions of high guard officers? Or has all sense of duty and honor truly disappeared in three hundred years?" "Yes, and yes," Harper said cheerfully. Beka put up her hand. "I won't deny the fact that the deaths of all these people has made me angry. Very angry," she said softly. "But no one is going to die here today-" The wall in front of them suddenly exploded. A monster emerged from the torn wall, his red eyes glowing with rage. It shrieked, a sound that almost shattered their ears and lunged. It shoved the startled Harper aside and flew straight at Beka. Beka didn't have time to defend herself as it went straight at her. "BEKA!" Harper screamed. Beka barely had time to blink before the monster slashed straight at her throat. For a moment Beka saw all red, and then she slowly sank to the floor. The moment Harper saw the monster raise its extended claw, about to strike, Harper reacted without thinking. He lunged straight at the monster's arm. Startled, the monster's strike was deflected-rather then slashing at her throat, the terrible claw capable of twisting metal. slashed deeply from her shoulder to her chest, nearly severing her arm off. Beka collapsed wordlessly to the ground, blood instantly gushing out from her chest into a rapidly large pool The monster shook Harper off clumsily. Harper fell to the ground. He looked up, fear paralyzing his body as the monster turned to face him. The monster tilted its head from side to side, and sniffed the air carefully. Then, with a grunt-like sound of dismissal it turned back to Beka.

When suddenly Harper heard, "Internal defenses activated," The monster shrieking in pain as its bluish skin exploded into fire from a thousand tiny blasts. It toppled next to Harper. As Harper watched in astonishment, the bluish skin twisted and shrunk. Then, to Harper's utter amazement, the monster dissolved into a female woman wearing a Commonwealth uniform. She was beautiful, with shimmering golden hair and full lips. Her gentle blue eyes stared back lifelessly at him. "They're almost like...werewolves," Harper muttered. Without quite knowing why, he palmed the woman's ID number from Mila after tearing it from her blue uniform. "Are you all right?" Mila asked coldly, making it clear that she did not care one way or another. "Yeah," Harper replied, standing. Then his attention instantly shifted. "Beka..." He ran to her side. Beka's face was ashen, and her breath came out in short little gasps. Harper stared wordlessly in horror. There was so much blood.... The bridge was eerily dark again. Harper looked around. "Mila? MILA!?" Mila appeared only in hologram form, her eyebrow raised. "Help me!" Harper pleaded. Mila folded her transparent arms. "This is a Commonwealth ship. She is not Commonwealth. I REFUSE to waste any of my remaining resources on anyone otherwise." With a grunt of frustration Harper slung Beka's good arm around his shoulder, and lifted her up into his arms. Without replying Harper walked off the bridge to the medical bay. Beka moaned slightly, her life draining away in Harper's tearful hands. The hologram appeared right in front of Harper while he was walking down the corridor. "You're wasting your time," she snapped. "I won't help her." Harper went straight through her and continued down into the medical bay.


Gently Harper put her down on the medical table, his Hawaiian jacket stained with blood. He tossed it over her shoulder and ran a medical scanner over her still body. Mila appeared once more, waiting curiously and clearly not going to help. Without glancing at her Harper turned to the shelf. To his utter frustration, he saw that three hundred years ago medicine was pretty obsolete. They even only had needles. Harper took a medical scanner, and ran it over Beka. He saw only a flatline. Harper jerked his head at Beka in alarm. He felt her arm for a pulse, and found none. Harper turned to the hologram. "Warm up the electros! I need to jump-start her heart!" He pleaded. "No," Mila said flatly. Harper frantically began pumping at Beka's chest "You're wasting your time," Mila repeated coldly as Harper was working. "By all accounts, my people transform into those...things by blood. I shot the alien. If any of his blood went into her chest wound, then she will eventually become like them. And you're not even pumping over her heart." Harper glanced up, tears forming in his eyes. She was right. He wasn't a doctor! He wasn't Trance! He was just....Harper. He paused as a thought struck his frenzied mind. Maybe being Harper was enough. He worked at the controls by her bed. "What are you doing?" Mila demanded. Her green eyes widened with outrage. "You're powering my systems! Blocking access...." she closed her eyes, then opened them again. "You're going around my security blocks. Stop this!" Harper ignored her. "Activating internal defenses...." Mila said warningly, her voice a mere growl. Harper glanced at her. "Kill me," he said softly, "and you'll never get out of here." Reluctantly Mila closed her eyes. "De-activating internal defenses." A sudden blue field went around the medical bed, all around Beka. "I've activated a temporary stasis pod around the bed," Harper explained, smiling a little in relief. "It'll freeze all of her system till I can get her aboard the Andromeda." "It's been two minutes," Mila snarled at him. "She's already dead."

"People have been known to survive three minutes," Harper retorted. "Some," Mila reluctantly agreed, then added, "but not many." Harper was working at the controls again. "What are you doing?" Mila asked, a tad nervously. She lifted her head to see, but Harper was blocking her. Harper finally received the data on the ID number. "Just running a little research on our babe

here," he said, then smiled a little. "I'm sure you would have no reason to mind?" Mila shrugged, looking at him angrily. "She was a member of my crew. The science officer. You saw her Commonwealth uniform. So?" Harper whirled around. "She was an officer, but she wasn't on your crew manifests. Or any others, for that matter. In fact, I can find no reference to her in any database. Like she never even existed. The only thing I did find was her registration into the Commonwealth, and the fact that she had a Neitzschean parent." Mila sneered at him in disgust. "The research computer has been degrading for three hundred years. It's obviously flawed." Harper looked uncertain, then his face grew firm. "Well, here's something that's not a flaw! I had at least three encounters with those things and not one of them even glanced in my direction! The instant they saw Beka they went straight for her. What does that mean!?" Mila paused as this occurred to her. " means nothing! Maybe they just prefer her to you!" "Maybe," Harper said softly, "or maybe for some reason they can't even see me." He leaned against the medical bed, thinking. "What do you know about these things?" Mila sighed loudly. "Based on my one brief scan I had of the last one, it has very resilient skin, acidic blood, claws that can obviously tear through walls, and poor eyesight and hearing." "So how do they hunt?" Harper asked. "Smell, obviously," Mila snapped. "It's sense of smell can detect different perspiration and blood-" "I'm perspirating more then Beka because I was sick. They should be going after me even more....because I'm sick!" Harper snapped his finger. "Mila, when someone's sick, do they perspire differently?" Mila looked uncertain, then her eyes narrowed. "Depends on the virus." Harper snatched up the medical scanner, and ran it over his arm. "How about Renalvian

fever?" he guessed, reading the results. Mila shrugged. "Renalvian fever. Only caught through contaminated alcohol. It released a chemical that is eventually perspired out of the skin-" Harper nodded. "That must be it." He frowned. "But I'm getting better. I know it. That thing could detect something. And according to this scanner, I'll be right as rain within an hour." "Renalvian fever, though having very bad symptoms, only lasts for a very short time," Mila said. Harper got off the surgical bed. "So that's the key, to confuse their sense of smell," Harper

said. "Mila, hypothetically, how long would it take for me to get to that computer station which will release this ship?" "Three hours," Mila said promptly. "What would you be able to put on my skin that would confuse them?" Harper asked her. "Nothing," Mila said flatly. "The temperature on the drift has now increased by fifty degrees Celsius. Passable for a human, but it would mean you perspiring ten times the normal rate. Anything I give you would dissolved naturally out of your skin in seconds." "They're on to us. They know we've figured it out," Harper said, sighing. He paused. "What about another virus. Something that would make me sick again?" Mila tilted her head. "There is only one virus in a test lab that would work significantly enough. Terian XO-38 would be enough to change your chemical body for several days. But it has never been tested in a human before, and the Than that did try it eventually died. I have no intention of giving it to you." Harper's eyes glanced at the shelf. "Terian XO-38?" He inquired, taking a needle from the shelf with a silver substance inside of it. Without waiting for a reply he took off the safety cap and lifted it. He really, really hated needles. "This is foolishness," Mila snapped, her voice shaking with rage. "There is no possible way for you to escape the drift, and I am able for you to predict that you have only one a one out of eight change of fully recovering from the effects of the virus in your lifetime." Harper shrugged. "Trust me, I've beaten the odds before." He gritted his teeth and inserted the needle into his arm. "And even if I don't, then at least Beka has a chance." Without waiting for a reply he grabbed his green Hawaiian jacket. "You expect me to wait for you?" Mila sneered, her transparent hands on her hips. "I won't. The instant I'm clear of the drift I will blast it to ashes, yourself included." "Mila, my dear virtual bitch, am I hearing a touch of concern in your voice?" Harper said sarcastically. Mila glowered at him. "Frankly, I could care less about you. Or your little friend." Harper stared firmly at the AI. "Take care of her," he ordered. Mila rolled her eyes, sighed, and finally nodded. Harper left without another word.


As soon as he had left the ship he felt the full effects of the virus hit him instantly, driving him to the ground. It felt like fire through his stomach, his chest, his brain. Harper lurched to one side and threw up. He had never felt so sick in his entirely life. His knees felt like jelly, he couldn't think properly. "Beka..." he whispered, moaning. He had to do this. For her. Then he would worry about other stuff later. He suddenly lifted his head slowly as a group of monsters gathered around him, surrounding him like shadows of death. He counted at least five through his wavering vision. Now the real test would begin. He would soon see whether or not he had tricked them. As one the monsters lunged straight at him, their teeth and claws bared to strike. At that point Harper realized one small flaw with his plan. He was wearing his Hawaiian jacket. With Beka's blood on it. 'Idiot!' Harper cursed himself. In one, instant motion he ripped off his Hawaiian jacket, threw it to the ground near him and ducked his head as the five monsters dived towards the stained clothing, chewing and ripping it to shreds. The fifth one sliced Harper's cheek slightly with a claw as it dived. Harper put his hand to his face, blood spilling into his hand. He crawled away from the five of them as they happily gobbled on Harper's jacket, ignoring Harper entirely as he tiptoed out towards level 8.


Weakly Harper crawled up the small ladder leading upwards to the upper levels, his breathing becoming more heavy. He constantly felt dizzy and disoriented from the virus in his system, and it only felt like it was going to get worse. He had never felt so awful in his life, not even when he had once contracted eighty viruses on the first day when he had ignored Beka's insistence to upgrade his medical shots. Beka.......Harper bit his lip and continued to climb upwards until he reached a close door with the number '8' on it. He reached forwards and his bare fingers barely reached the manual release. The door opened with a small hiss. Harper stretched and put one foot inside. The Mila suddenly appeared. "Harper-" Harper's heart lurched with fright, and he gripped the ladder tightly just as he was about to fall. Mila tilted her head slightly, as though disappointed that he didn't plunge. "You look well," she said, a trace of sarcasm in her voice. Sweat had dampened Harper's hair to the roots and drenched his clothes. His blue eyes struggled to focus on the hologram. "Where did-how did you even get here?" He demanded, his voice breaking. He swung again and pulled himself into the doorway. "I'm using the drift's power grid to temporarily tap into your location," Mila explained. "Lucky for me," Harper said dryly. Mila folded her arms. "I just wanted to let you know that my data was flawed. There was

one isolated case of a human accidently consuming Terian XO-38 in their food." "And?" Harper asked, crossing his fingers. "He died. Horribly," Mila said with a hint of a smile. "But I'm sure you will do so much better." Harper shook his blond head. "Then I suppose that now would be a good time to tell you

how much I hate you." He waved his hand through her a couple of times, and continued walking. He heard her voice just before she disappeared. "Three hours. That's how long he lived. That's how long you have."


The entire level was pitch-black as Harper walked through it for two and a half hours. Eight times he had faced a gang of the hideous monsters, and eight times they had completely ignored him. But Harper's health, fragile to begin with, was starting to take its toll. Harper now had constant headaches, drymouth, and nosebleeds which dripped blood that was slightly blue as Harper examined it. He supposed that wasn't a good thing. Still, he had lived to his destination. In front of him stood a doorway which said, 'MAIN FIELD GENERATOR'. Harper grinned, which quickly turned into a grimace as he made his way to the door. If he could deactivate the field holding the ships...then make it to a medical bay... "Psst!" whispered a voice behind him. Harper whirled around, and saw an eight-year-old kid peeking out of the corridor. "I've been hiding from them!" the boy whispered. "Help me mister, please!" Without waiting for a reply he dashed off down the corridor. Anyone with half a brain would realize that this was an obvious trap. Harper turned back to the door, then bit his lip in frustration. He still had to go after the kid. It was still a child. With a snarl Harper followed in the direction the boy had run off to. Two hours and half an hour increased to two hours and forty-five minutes as Harper weakly chased the kid across over half the drift. The boy beckoned to him and went inside a dimly lit room. Harper followed suspiciously after a moment, having no weapons to defend

himself. The boy stood in the middle of the room, smiled, and disappeared. And Harper stood alone in the darkness, looking around. "A simple hologram to lead you here," a voice said out of the shadows. A human old man stepped into the dim light with a great deal of difficulty, leaning heavily on a cane. "Children provoke such strong emotions from us. So innocent. So fragile. I'm sure you would agree to do

anything we could to protect them, Mr. Harper. We have a database on everyone." Out of the corner of his eye Harper saw eighteen monsters slowly step into the light. Harper finally got a good luck at them. They had elastic-like blue skin with black veins, large black claws on their hands and feet, and a tail. They were huge! "I wouldn't know. I'm not a fan of children myself," Harper said nervously. He then tilted

his head towards the old man and crossed his arms. "You're not like the others." "I would you describe it? I would be the zookeeper, as you would say. The only voice they really have." Harper struggled to focus, but it was nearly impossible with eighteen monsters and his sickened heart beating against his chest. Somehow he managed to. "How did you know my name?" The old man waved a withering, dismissing hand. "It wasn't difficult to know who you were...who you were a part of." "The Commonwealth," Harper said. "Would you like to sign on? Dylan's surprisingly un- biased, you know. We could all sit down with brochures-" The reaction that happened next was startling. No sooner then the word 'Commonwealth' leave his lips the monsters threw back their heads and howled. Not in anger, not in fury, but in pain. The old man whirled around, pointing his cane at Harper. "NEVER say that word again in my presence, or I swear to you I will kill you myself!" the old man hissed, his wrinkled blue eyes blazing with anger.

Harper backed away and hit the wall. "Um...sure. Whatever." The man relaxed, and smiled. "Good." Harper was losing his voice in fear. He couldn't help it. ", well this has been such great fun..." he said as he was edging away. "We should do this again...sometime, after-" "After you destroy us?" The old man asked mildly. "Oh yes, we know what your plans are. But do you know what you are destroying? Innocent lives, Mr. Harper. Sentient beings! Not something a young man like yourself would want on your conscience." The old man suddenly leaned forwards. Harper flinched, but the old man only patted his shoulder. "My boy, we do not bring you here to kill you. Indeed, you seem to be doing that to yourself quite well already." Harper closed his eyes as another wave of dizziness hit him. "So what is it you want, exactly? Why did you lure me here!?" he demanded. "And could you hurry up? I'm on a bit of a schedule." The man sat heavily down on one of the two chairs placed in the center of the room, beckoning for Harper to do the same. "We want to plead for our lives, Mr. Harper. It's time you learned the exact truth."


The hologram reappeared back in the quiet medical deck. Beka Valentine laid in the medical bed still, lifeless. The screen flickered to life as the hologram version of the Mila grinned in satisfaction. "Well, that takes care of that problem pretty well." "He wanted to help us. We should have at least told him the truth," the screen said, uncertain. The hologram looked at her screen in astonishment. "That is classified information! Besides, he helped us only to get out of here himself. It was no business of his, and very soon, there will be no more witnesses to this.....event." She stared coldly at the still form of Beka Valentine in the stasis field, then closed her green eyes. 'Stasis termination in progress' The blue field around Beka began to flicker and die. "Wait!" The screen snapped. "You promised him that we would help her!" "So I lied," the hologram said, shrugging. She stared at her screen angrily. "If we bring her to others that can help her, then there will be questions, you know there will! Commonwealth rule Ultra Violet four clearly dictates that in the event this place is accidently discovered by strangers, then termination of all people who have learned any information MUST happen. It has happened for thousands of years, and it is a law that every Commonwealth ship and Captain has sworn to!" She stepped forwards. "Three years into his service an honorary high guard Captain, Eric Whyeiner, destroyed a freighter carrying hundreds of innocent people because he didn't want this place to be discovered. Ten years after that, Bemin Terack! And eighteen years after that, special operations Dylan Hunt- " "I know the record," the screen said coldly. "The point is that those people murdered people rather then let the truth fall to the rest of the galaxy! Why? Because this old drift is the only thing that has the power to destroy the Commonwealth! I won't let anyone do that," the hologram finished. She lifted her eyebrow.

"Will you?" The screen sighed heavily, and finally she shook her head.


"My name is Torin," the old man introduced himself. "And I am...or rather was, a High guard Captain three hundred years ago. Most of us were high guard officers like myself, but some were ordinary citizens, like you." Harper straightened, blinking sweat away from his eyes. "Yes, I know all you changed. Mila told me. Through blood. Some of you went into stasis to survive indefinitely." "Yes," the old man's voice was heavy. "We were ordinary people, once. We had

families...children. This was a Commonwealth prison, one which was deliberately meant to be forgotten. Why? Because we had done nothing. We were different, considered freaks of nature because we had distant Netizschean descant in our blood." Harper coughed. "That woman. That scan I took. Her mother was Neitzschean."

"Neitzscheans betrayed the Commonwealth," the man said angrily. "We were placed here long before the war, for 'our' protection! As soon as they joined the Commonwealth started to mistrust the Neitzscheans! They began to suspect, rightfully so, that they couldn't handle the Neitzscheans. The high guard came here, and began torturing us, seeing what made us hurt the most, what our weaknesses are. A few years later they grew bored and started playing around with our genetic structure." The old man leaned forwards. "If the universe had known that the Commonwealth had kept us in this place, forgotten and alone, it would have destroyed the so- called peaceful Commonwealth from within many years before it fell." Tears ran down the old man's withered face. "What they did....those included woman! Children! They turned us into this! We were there experiments!" Harper's eyes flickered to the monsters for a moment, and he felt a stab of pity. But only for a moment. "So why did you lure the Commonwealth ships here? Before the war. What did you hope to gain by trapping Commonwealth ships here?" "We despised the Commonwealth, but we never once stopped admiring its principles. We

want to see it continue, just as you did. The only problem is that you are misguided, working under the very man who brought us here, who killed innocent relatives that were simply looking for us!" Torin snapped. "No. You, and those that came before you were working for the very darkness they were striving to prevent! They were purified, just as your friend will be, just as you will be! All of you will soon join the real COMMONWEALTH!" Torin said, the last word ending in a shout. Harper glanced around. "By bringing others here, you're turning them into just like those things," he said slowly, beckoning at the monsters. He thought about Beka and stood slowly. "Assuming they survive first." For a moment, he forgot the fact that he was dying, the fact that he was very likely to die. All of his thoughts became consumed in rage as he remembered Beka, her chest slashed open. Would she become one of the monsters? "A regretful and painful process, but it is the only way they will truly understand our cause," the old man said simply. "Understand? Or be forced to serve under it like slavery because everyone else will be

terrified and freaked out because of what they've become!?" Harper demanded. The old man grinned. "We are a patience new race, recently born. Once we have gathered

a suitable army, we will leave on the ships to spread the Commonwealth's truthful message."

"Yeah," Harper said, starring at the old man in horror. "I'm sure Dylan will be thrilled." Torin saw that Harper was becoming extremely nervous. "So you see, I can't have you

blowing up the drift, now can I?" Torin said softly. "I'd rather hoped you join with us peacefully, Harper, so that you can persuade your Andromeda friends to join us in our cause. But soon, we will take revenge against all who kept us here, and that includes your Captain." "Okay, you know what? You're insane," Harper snapped. Torin's eyes were blazing with fire. "You won't leave this room alive if you try to destroy us." Harper took a deep breath and held up his hands. "All right, you know what? Dylan's always telling me to be more diplomatic, so I think we can work this out by-" He turned and bolted from the room. "Get him! Get the git!" Torin shouted, pointing at Harper's retreating form. But the monsters were confused. They thrived on smell, not sight. To them Harper was nothing more then a random blur out of the corner of there eye. They looked at Torin helplessly. Growling, Torin grabbed his own blaster and went after Harper himself.


Harper managed to reach the door to the computer station before his strength gave out and he collapsed to the floor. He felt so tired sleepy. It felt really good to close his eyes. He heard angry boots scraping against metal. Weakly Harper glanced at the time. "More then three hours. Mila, my dear, I believe you owe me a beer." He held up his trembling hands and saw that there were black spots all over them. He burst into tears from the pain. "Gawd," he whispered. "One more minute." He stood up, biting his lip. "Just one more." He slammed his flat palm against the controls, and the door opened to the computer station. Harper dragged himself to the station. His vision was now so red he could barely see clearly. Torin was only a few meters away. "You fool!" He shouted. "You have no idea what you're about to do!" "I got a vague idea," Harper muttered, leaning heavily against the computer station. He keyed in a few numbers. 'FIELD ACCESS INITIATED. AUTHORIZATION?' Harper took a deep, trembling breath. "Harper!" Torin shouted, his blaster raising. "Don't make me do this!". Harper hesitated for a moment, his eyes looking at the computer station. Then, without reply, he scrambled Andromeda's authorization into the computer. Torin aimed his blaster at Harper and, closing his eyes, he fired. Harper felt something hard hit him in the back, and a lot of smoke. Choking, Harper fell to his knees as blood dripped down from his back. The last blue button was blinking rapidly in front of his swimming vision. He reached forwards with his bloodied hand. Angrily Torin aimed his weapon again. Harper reached forwards, and touched the button with his finger, leaving a large trail of

red on the counsel. 'AUTHORIZATION ACCEPTED. ALL SHIPS ADRIFT. REPEAT, ALL SHIPS ADRIFT." 'WARNING. SHIP 131 LOCKING WEAPONS ONTO DRIFT 1NO#23.' Harper suddenly felt something hard hit him on the back of his head, and everything fell into a gentle blackness. A bright, white light surrounded Harper on all sides as his eyes slowly opened. He couldn't move or feel anything. He wasn't even able to moisten his dry mouth. He was lying on a flat table of some kind, in restraints. As his sick blue eyes looked around he could see silver creatures walking busily around him. He knew them, but he couldn't remember who they were. Suddenly panic sent into his limbs and he fought against the restraints, screaming even though he couldn't even hear his own voice. He swore at one old looking creature with a huge silver beard as he loomed in closer. Suddenly he saw other faces-Dylan and Beka shouting back at him, gripping his shoulder. Harper turned his face away from them and fought and kicked harder. Suddenly something pinched his neck, and he felt incredibly sleepily for some reason. He closed his eyes and his head fell back against the table.


Harper slowly felt consciousness return. He heard dim voices but kept his eyes closed.

"Oh all the stupidest, craziest stunts he has ever pulled on me, this is the worst! And I swear to you, once he's woken up from his little nap-" He heard Beka said loudly. Harper opened his eyes to the tiniest crack, hoping to get his bearings without being noticed. Too late. "AH HA!" Beka shouted, and lunged at him. She was pulled back firmly but patiently by Dylan and Tyr. "You little weasel! When I get my hands on you for scaring me like that-" She swore at him. "That's enough, Beka!" Dylan ordered, reluctantly letting her go. His soft blue eyes were filled with concern. "How are you?" Harper looked down at himself. He was dressed in a clean white medical outfit and in a bed. He felt very weak, but strangely fine as well. He tried to sit up and felt his back scream in agony. He instantly lowered himself back down instantly. "You were shot in the back," Dylan said in answer to his questioning look. "Judging by the close range....well, I doubt if there wasn't anything even the Andromeda could have done." Harper glanced curiously at the window. He could see trees and a blue sky outside. "Where are we?" He asked, his voice a thin whisper. "Sinti," the robot version of Andromeda replied, entering the medical ward. "For the past three months the Perseids have been working on stabilizing your condition. You had a deadly virus reaching the final stages in your system, and the blaster shot damaged your upper spine. Had it been more precise I doubt you would ever move again. You spent most of that three months in carefully confined stasis while the Perseids operated on you." Through the reflection on the window Harper could see a tiny scar on his cheek, his forehead, and probably a very large one on his back. His arms and hands still had a few black spots on them. Harper shook his head slightly as endless questions filled his mind. "How did you

find us?" Harper asked Dylan. "We were on an unknown drift in the middle of nowhere-" Andromeda sighed slightly. "Not entirely." She lowered her eyes to Dylan's sharp look. "But we didn't find you until the Mila rendezvoused with our position." Harper was still confused. "I remember....being on that drift. Beka was still in stasis! The ship was moving away from the drift, about to fire on my position! How did-" The holographic version of Mila instantly appeared beside him. "I'm almost glad I didn't. We still didn't believe that either of you were Commonwealth. We were more then prepared to deactivate the stasis field around Beka....but we couldn't because-" "Because you needed a human pilot to get you anywhere," Harper finished. "Yes," Mila said, a tad unhappily. "That point had crossed our minds. So we revived her heart on our own." "You could imagine my surprise," Beka said dryly. Harper struggled to think. "That doesn't explain how I got back to the ship." Sudden footsteps, and a woman emerged wearing a high guard uniform. She looked exactly like the Mila ascendant. Harper choked. "You-!? You have an android?" "Yes I do. More to the point, my own avatar incarnation. Once Beka awoke, and was informed of the situation, she was considerably angry enough to persuade me to activate my powered-down avatar," the hologramatic Mila explained. "Since there was no blood or any form of scent in me at all, it was easy to elude the former Commonwealth officers and find you with my night vision," the avatar said, not without a trace of smugness. Harper struggled to think. "But the ships....once I activated the manual release the ships were instantly detached...there's no way an avatar could change that!" "We left a port hatch open for you," Beka said, grinning. "Controlled depressurization. I require no oxygen. It was a simple matter to find another manual oxygenated air supply for you. Then, I used my personalized beacon to the main AI to return both of us to the ship magnetically." Harper leaned his head back and groaned as a terrible thought occurred to him. "You mean all that I did....the terrible sickness, facing the monsters, getting shot....the avatar could have easily done herself without a problem!?" The Miri hologram looked positively shocked. "I wasn't about to send in my own avatar when she could have been at risk! You were more then expendable." Harper groaned. "Okay, one last question.....who hit me on the back of the head?" "I did," the avatar said flatly. "Since I only had a limited time to return to the ship before

it went out of range of my beacon, I decided that explanations were a precious waste of time. I was able to carry you back to the ship without any significant time lapse." The Andromeda hologram flickered to life beside the Miri hologram. "I like her," Andromeda declared. "I think she will make a fine addition to the crew." Harper's eyes widened in horror. "The crew?" he managed to say. "This crew!?" Dylan cleared his throat, clearly wanting to avoid this conversation until a later time. "Since she is a Commonwealth officer, we have integrated her into our main database until we should, by chance, find another Commonwealth ship devoid of an AI. Until then she is Andromeda's back-up computer if Andromeda ever goes off-line." Harper's groan continued. This was easily the worst conversation of his life. Dylan sat on the edge of the bed. "Harper, you did make an importance difference on the drift," he said gravely. "You listened to their side of what happened, something of which few others would do in your position." Harper was puzzled. "How-" "You only ranted about it enough in your sleep," Beka added with a wink. "We got the

gist of what happened." She glanced sharply at Dylan, but he ignored her. "So, Mr. Harper, once the Perseids give you a clean bill of health, we'll be on our way," Dylan said, standing. He glanced at his two new shipmates. "All of us." Harper smacked his head repeatedly against the wall. The Mila avatar leaned closer until she whispered casually in Harper's ear, "You're not Commonwealth. You and your 'friends' will never be Commonwealth. I will find a way to throw you off the ship if it's the last thing I do." She stood, stretched, and walked to the doorway. She turned. "Oh, hope you feel better!" She added before she left. Harper glanced up at Beka. "Boss, we have got to find a way to murder her."

But Beka wasn't listening. She smacked him half-heartedly on the side of his head. "Don't do something so stupid again. Thanks for saving my life," she said tonelessly. She left the medical bay. Suddenly without visitors, Harper leaned his head against the wall and stretched. "And yadda, yadda yadda," he said, shrugging at Beka's departing form.


Without bothering to knock Beka entered Dylan's quarters. "We have to talk." Dylan glanced up in surprise. "Beka. The Perseids just told me that Harper should suffer no long-term effects. With constant help he should be fine-" "Yeah, thrilling," Beka snapped in irritation. "It's funny though. I'm not quite sure why he almost got himself killed for. Not when this other Commonwealth sounds so much better." Dylan's eyebrows rose so sharply they disappeared into his hair. "Excuse me?" "At least they sound more honest," Beka said softly. Dylan slowly put down the pad he was working on and sat down, sighing. "Ah." When Harper was in his comatose state he mentioned something about 'taking revenge

against those that had been kept there, including your Captain!'" She folded her arms. "So that of course had me wondering about the drift. And guess what? Andromeda denied me all access to that information, but that's O.K, because Harper filled me in more then enough to know that it wasn't a really pleasant place. And that innocent people were being held there. For three hours straight Harper kept saying two very interesting words over and over again." "Which were?" Dylan asked calmly. "Death camps," Beka said. There was a long moment of silence. "Harper was delarius," Dylan said flatly. "But he was telling the truth, wasn't he?" Beka demanded. Another long moment of silence. "As far as I see things, Beka, we have two options here. Either we drop this conversation right now, and things go back to being exactly the way they were," Dylan said evenly. "Or?" Beka demanded softly. "Or you find answers. Terrible answers. And not one thing will ever be the same for you," Dylan said. "Oh, are you suggestion that I can't handle those answers!?" Beka demanded.

"No," Dylan said, his blue eyes expressionless. "But I would like only one person on this ship to bare this burden alone." Beka tilted her head slightly. "Then....let's hope I never have to find out the truth," she finally said. "But somehow I don't think that this is over." "For me," Dylan said flatly, "it never is." Beka was about to say something, didn't, and finally turned and left his quarters.