Actions

Work Header

What does not Kill You

Chapter Text

Disclaimer: Andromeda is the creation of Gene Roddenbery and its related creators and producers. Fireworks and Tribune Entertainment and does not belong to me.
Note: For Andromeda would refer to events set about midway through Season 1 episode "Harper 2.0'.
Highlander: the Series belongs to Rysher Television and Gauamount Productions.
Note: For Highlander takes place around the time of Duncan's Dark Quickening and refers to events shown in the Season 5 episode "Something Wicked This Way Comes'.
I belong firmly Clan Denial that Richie's 'death in Season 6 episode "Archangel' never happened. " Also it's a rather belated answer to Dan S's story challenge posted over at the big Highlander fanfiction archive, the Seventh Dimension.

"What Does Not Kill You" by Karrenia

Prologue

Dylan Hunt stood on the crest of a rocky outcrop surveying the panoramic sweep of the tundra landscape spread out below him in various shades of greens, whites, grays and blacks. Wind that constantly changed direction tugged subtle designs through his wheat-colored hair.

The planet on which he landed his slip fighter was not listed on any of current galactic star maps; it was however, listed in the star map of his ship, the Andromeda Ascendant, but those maps had been accurate over three hundred years ago. It was only reasonable that the topography, features would change in all that time.

'Like so many other things,' Dylan reflected. Keeping track of remote and sparsely populated planets would have to be very low on the list of priorities.

In the privacy of his own thoughts Dylan sometimes felt like a bit of a relic himself: the only surviving High Guard of the fallen Commonwealth.

Dylan sighed, wondering if what kind of fate would allow to survive in suspended animation on the event horizon of a black hole, and the very instant he would have literally fall into the abyss, the hand of fate reached out and snatched him back. He was a man out of his own time. But he had vowed he would restore the Commonwealth or die trying. Dylan kicked at an inoffensive piece of rubble and watched as it tumbled down the face of the outcrop.

An electronic static of white noise buzzed in his left ear, and he left off staring at the bleak landscape long enough to acknowledge the communication from his ship in orbit. "Yes, Rommie."

"Captain, scanners confirm that landing is within plus or minus 10 clicks of the relic's last known coordinates."

"Estimated walking distance and direction?"

Rommie replied: "Two hours, barring any unexpected adverse weather conditions. Head due east."

"That big brain of yours indicate which civilization inhabited this rock? And if so if anyone is still alive? I wouldn't want to drop in them unannounced because that would be impolite."

"Unlikely, Captain. I will adjust the scanners to pick up life signs. The process will only take a matter of nano-seconds. Stand by."
Another few seconds ticked by and Dylan heard and felt the whine of the communication device as the ship downloaded the results of the scan.

The ship, floating in the void of space, the sun of the planetary system reflecting of its silver hull, hummed and purred to itself as the Andromeda filtered the information and with an almost visible hum of satisfaction responded:

"No visible life signs averaging the mass and density of humanoids is .02 percent. Scans came up positive on an unidentified escape pod, origin unknown."

"If what we find turns up to be valuable, " Dylan grinned. "Tell Captain Valentine that I get first dibs according to galactic salvage rights."

"You tell, her," the AI's voice replied, "I would rather not have any of my systems pounded on by a frustrated former salvage freighter captain."

Later

Dylan entered the hollow that had been created when a meteorite had crashed into the planet's surface, leaving behind a roughly bowl-shaped crevice.

At the bottom, Dylan's feet in shod in black boots sank to the knees into a congealed mass of snow and frozen mud. Shifting aside the pieces Dylan's efforts were rewarded with what he come to find: A cylindrical silver and black metal tube, roughly the length of an average human being.

 

A through scan with his device that kept a running log of surface temperature and life readings indicated that the on-board computer kept the vital signs of its passenger and its other functions operating. Dylan tugged off a glove from his right hand and knelt down beside the escape pod. In the dying light of the planet's sunset Dylan tried to read the language inscribed on to the pod's metallic surface to discover its origin.

To his surprise, the script inscribed on the pod's sides, lids and corners were in perfectly understandable Old Earth English. And equally astonishing was the fact that the pod's consoles and display readouts were still operative, flickering green in the dying light of the sun that filtered down into the crevice. Dylan sucked in his breath, the cold air hissing between his teeth, Dylan peered closely at the readouts his discovered lettering that read: 'Property of NASA USS: Venture."
***

Meanwhile

Methos gasped for breath, air going into lungs that been breathing recycled artificial atmosphere for what seemed like an eternity. His eyelids flickered trying in vain to respond to order from the mind that told him to wake up and find out what had gone wrong and his present whereabouts.

Methos stirred and maneuvered around until he could sit upright. Realizing that could retract the lid and breathed in deeps gasp of fresh if frigid air. At least it was real air, not constantly recycled oxygen.

He calmed the rapid beating of his heart and then realized that he was not alone. An intrusive but watchful presence was with him.
Reacting on instinct he hurled himself out of the pod and at the intruder.

"Good morning," Dylan greeted; blocking the pod's passenger with an out-flung arm and catching the staggering man before he fell down again. Dylan smiled at the stranger trying to put the other at ease.

"Where the hell am I?"

Methos realized that attack was not a feasible option in his exhausted condition. The stranger was well built, compact, taller, stronger, and dressed for the cold weather. Methos would have to acquire more information and assess his options before he decided on another strategy. This seemed like an ideal time to extract some of it.

 

"Now we're getting somewhere," Dylan replied, scanning the stranger's lanky frame. Skinny, but underneath Dylan could tell that the man had a lean, predatory feel and a wiry strength. "Water?" He held out the water canteen, and Methos glared and accepted the offering.

"To answer your first question, this is the planet Lumaria. I am Captain Dylan Hunt, Commander of the High Guard ship the Andromeda Ascendant."

"Pretty," Methos replied. "What's that got to do with me?"

"Everything and nothing," Dylan replied. "I found your escape pod, so by galactic salvage rights everything in it, including its passenger belongs to me."

"You're not a slaver or smuggler. What are you really after."

"Come with me back to my ship and you'll find out. It's a long story. Suffice to say I need a few more crew members."

"Do I have any other options?" Methos asked.

"Assuming that no one came by in response to the pod's distress signal, what were your plans before I found you?" Dylan asked.

"Don't really know," Methos shrugged. "I was making this up as I went."

"Then you'll consider my proposal?" Dylan nodded encouragingly.

"I have a choice?"

"You can find your own way off of this rock, you can die here of exposure, or you can wait for another passing ship to come get you." Dylan replied.

"Do I have to call your Sir?" Methos grinned.

"No, but I would prefer to either Captain or Dylan." You agree to join my crew?

"Hell, yeah. It's a damn sight better than the options you've already put forth, so anything better than freezing death on this rock," Methos replied.

"All right, it's a bit of a trek to where I land my slip fighter, so if we're going to make the rendezvous point with Andromeda we should get moving."

Earth AD 2004

Richie paced restlessly back and forth outside the auto body shop waiting for the mechanic to repair his motorcycle. A thick layer of sweat and road dust made him feel grimy and out of sorts. He glanced into reflecting surface of a nearby window and decided he needed a bath and nap in that order. His Paris guidebook showed several nearby hotels, but none within walking distance, swearing a blue streak, wondering what was taking so long. Entering the building he ignored the sidelong stares from the other workers and clients.

Richie followed a dimly lit corridor and maneuvered around the raised platforms that held other vehicles in various stages of repair. Short on cash and in a hurry it did not ocurr to him as odd to see that the equipment in the front looked old and the equipment close to the back of the building could have been lifted from the most modern technological auto factory. Richie shook his head and wondered what he was going to be charged for this all this gadgetry. "Yo! Mason! Where are you? Is the bike fixed yet. I'm getting rather anxious here," Richie said.

"Yes, but I want to discuss something with you first." Mason beckoned from his seated position at a cluttered desk, a six pack of cheap beer shoved to one side.
***
"Do I even what to know why you have a time machine in your back room?"

Richie was extremely tired and so this revelation failed to astound him. In short, his life experiences that had led to this point had consisted of a series of bizarre, dangerous events following on the heels of fear and confusion.

His mentor, his teacher, and the man he looked up to as a father and guide had nearly killed him. Duncan MacLeod hadn't actually been himself and MacLeod's Watcher, Joe Dawson had repeatedly warned Richie to stay away from MacLeod as much as possible because Macleod was suffering both physically and mentally from something called a Dark Quickening.
Richie thought he could understand that. Richie had taken a respectable amount of Quickenings from other Immortals, and lived to tell about it, but none had ever made him go off the deep end as much as the older Immortal.

Richie fled the dojo in a blind panic; his guts tied in a knot of confusion, fear, and anger because his mentor, his teacher had nearly taken his head.

Richie told himself Macleod had struck at an invisible enemy that only he could see, and Richie just happened to be a physical target in range. What had saved his life was the unexpected arrival of Joe Dawson, and his shooting of MacLeod that allowed Richie to run.

That had been a horrible misunderstanding, but that wasn't really the truth. Months of coming to terms with that bizarre scene had taught Richie one vital thing: he had to quit making excuses for the older Immortal. Richie's rather disjointed thoughts were interrupted when Mason shifted his weight around and dislodged a precarious stack of tools and oil cans.

"To be precise, young man," Mason began, rubbing his oily palms on the front of his leather apron. "It's not a time machine, it’s a wormhole; usually defined as being a tear in the fabric of the space time continuum."

Not much is known about the man called Mason except that his deformed appearance belies a superior intellect, a talent for constructing wonders of technology out of the scrap of others, and a knack for hoarding information. He can get anything you want-for a price.

"Yeah, right. Like I understood all that," Richie muttered.

"It's like this," Mason smiled, showing his gaping yellowed teeth. "Time is not linear, despite the evidence of own our eyes, ears and noses, and other more nebulous senses that it would be. One event follows another, and so on. But what if I told you that time is fact circular. That it has as many layers as the skin of an onion. You like onions?"

"No, can't stand them. What's your point?" Richie demanded.

"Ah, the young, so impatient. It's an analogy, humor me. To continue with our demonstration; onions have layers and each time you peel off a layer one more is revealed underneath. You see," Suiting action to word the mechanic lifted a wrinkly brown paper object, obviously an onion from both its appearance and the odor, and waved it directly underneath Richie's nose.

"How about if I offered you alternative. You've been running to or running from something for most of your life, am I right?"

"How the hell would you know that?" Richie demanded.

"It's my business to know things, just answer the question," Mason replied,

"So?"

"So. I'm offering you the chance of a lifetime."

"I've heard better sales pitches when I worked as a used car salesman." Richie said. "You're asking me to step into that gizmo and go where?"

"You inquired about what I was doing with a time machine," Mason shrugged. Well, I need a favor. And in exchange for services rendered for the repair of you motorcycle all I ask in you perform a small service for me."

"Come again?"

"You see, I can calibrate the device to take only one person. "Now you're catching on." Mason nodded encouragingly.

"No way!" Richie shouted. "First of all I don't believe in time travel, second of all, you're crazy if you think I'll waltz headlong into some kind of weird portal."

"I think you will," Mason replied. "What do you have to keep here, in this reality. I think you're someone in search of a vision, of something to believe in again. Recent experiences have made you question your faith in people most dear to you."

"I could get better advice from a Chinese fortune cookie," Richie demanded.

"I need you."

"Why me?"

"Why you indeed?" Mason smiled. "Good question, convenient that I have such a good answer. I've already outlined some of the main reasons, but you're an Immortal…"

"Geez, does everybody know about that?" Richie griped.

"Relax, I'll keep your secret if you'll keep mine. As the old saying goes, you scratch my back; I'll scratch yours. You see the suit regulates itself, but not everyone can process the sensory input of another dimension. You've got an accelerated healing factor, among other things, and you've got a strong survival instinct and corresponding sense of adventure."

"Lovely," Richie complained, "Anything else I should know?"

"Go in the bathroom and suit up," Mason instructed, opening a crate and removing a carefully folded orange suit and handing it over. "Believe me, kid, you'll need it where you're going," Mason replied.

"I look like some kind damned astronaut," Richie shouted from the bathroom, fumbling with the suite numerous catches, clips and zippers. "Is this really necessary?" Richie asked, eyeing the suit with some doubt. Where'd you get this, NASA surplus store?"

Mason choked on his beer and set it down with a clink on the table in front of him and looked the kid over. The boots were a not a good fit, but then the roomier the better. The kid was average height and build, in good shape if a trifle worn around the edges: Not too tall, not too short: the kid appeared capable of taking care of himself.

The orange suit had been intended for extreme conditions and would regulate his body temperature, and give him you 48 hours of oxygen in a vacuum, and provide propulsion in zero gravity. The only thing it won't do is hold your hand when crossing the street.

"Ready" Mason asked

"Ready as I'll ever be. Can I take my bike with me?" Richie asked.

"Don't see why not? It's already a relic, where you're going it'll be a positive antique."

"Where am I going?" Aside from entering a time machine, that is." Richie shuffled his feet, feeling the circulation start to go sluggish, and tightened his grip around the handles of his motorcycle.

Mason glided over, fast for someone of his massive size "Please get it through that thick head of yours, which I understand is of some concern to your kind, it's a dimensional gateway not a time machine. There's a world of difference between the two."

"Wait, I'm not so sure I want to go through with this…" Richie said.

"Don't worry, I'll monitor your progress every step of the way." Mason smiled.

"Great, just great," Richie muttered.

Mason attached a tether cord to the motorcycle and attached the other end to one of the chest buckles on the front of the suit, tugging on the connection to make sure it was secure. "Now, just walk up the ramp and I'll open the iris, and walk through. I understand it will be a little uncomfortable at first, but it will pass. Welcome to the future, Richie." Mason said.
***

Elsewhere
In the vacuum of space no one can hear you scream. Richie thought with the part of his mind that was not otherwise occupied keeping himself attached to the tether that connected his suit with Mason on the other end of the connection, that 'uncomfortable needed to be upgraded to hurts like hell. Every nerve ending screamed, and smell of something burning like the after effects of a lightning strike or the aftermath of an Immortal Quickening pulsed all around him.

"A little uncomfortable….. Hell! This sucks! Literally!" That was Richie's last conscious thought before his mind, stubbornly refusing to cope with the sensory input, shut down and blackness closed over him.
****
The Medical Bay

By the time Richie regained consciousness several things struck at the same time.

One: The light bright enough to burn into his retinas, and secondly, he was not alone. Blinking back the fogginess Richie felt around with all his senses. Beneath his fingers he could feel a cool metal surface and rough linen.

He opened one eye a crack, not yet reading for a full blast of harsh light and realized that a girl whose skin was a deep lavender, stood beside holding a high-tech looking medical scope. He tried a shaky grin but it came out more of a grimace. His stomach growled and put a hand on his abdomen, wondering why that portion of his body always caused trouble at the worst possible moment. He blushed and then sat up on the bed. Taking a quick glance around Richie noted the gleaming array of cupboards and medical devices and muttered under his breath" "What the hell did I get myself into?"

"I'm Trance Gemini, I'm the acting medical officer aboard the Andromeda Ascendant, and you're safe here. No one will hurt you. Just hold still while I complete my examination."

Richie glanced at the purple girl with the mesmerizing eyes and he wondered if he had been better off with the orange environmental suit on. He could not recall taking it off but someone must have, and he blushed, guessing that it had been as part of her medical evaluation.

"Good, then we can ask him a few questions. Our other passenger has been less than forthcoming, Dylan replied. "I'm hoping we'll have better luck with the young man over there."

"Hmm, the possibilities," Beka remarked, entering the medical bay. "I was feeling a bit left out on the command deck so I left Tyr there and came down to check out our intruder."

"What have we learned so far?" Dylan asked Trance, ignoring Beka's comments.

"He's human, but I'm also picking up an amount of bio electric charges," Trance stated, a puzzled frown forming in on her brow.

"If it swims like a duck, looks like a duck, and tastes like a duck, it must be a duck," Harper joked from his seat near the back wall of the medical bay where he found an antique cycle and began disassembling it. Richie glanced over, a worried expression forming a line on his forehead; "I went to a lot of trouble to get that fixed, so don't blow it up or anything."

"Pay attention, son," Dylan ordered. "I'd like to ask you a few questions."

"Oh, right. I've got a million of 'em. So, where am I? What year is it?"

"Who sent you here?" Dylan asked "And where are you from?"

"Yes, uh, sir," Richie gulped. "Mason." I'm Richie Ryan of Seacouver, Washington."

"Mason," Trance echoed.

"You heard of him?" Dylan asked.

"What does he look like?" Trance wondered.

"Yes, but what is your planet of origin?" Dylan asked.

"Earth," Richie replied.

 

"That's impossible," Beka remarked. "Old Earth was destroyed by the Magog and the surviving humans were either killed and eaten or taking as slaves to the Neitzchean homeworlds. So, you're either lying or delusional,"
Beka stated, leaning forward so that her icy blue glared stared straight at him, and appeared as if she would preferred to stare through him as well.

"I guess, that would mean that Mason did it. He really sent me into one of those alternate reality futures he kept yammering about."

"You're a traveler?" Trance asked, cocked her head to one side and her tail began twitching back and forth. She glanced at the monitor bolted to the wall above the young man's exam bed and ordered the ship's computer to make a record coded to her personal journal.

"Yeah," Richie smiled at Trance. "But don't ask me to explain the technical details, it just gives me a headache."

"You and me both." Dylan realized he was taking too much of an instinctive liking to the young man and resumed the stern, commanding look on his face."You never answered the question."

"What gets me the most," Richie sighed. "Is that this entire ordeal began with me walking into a mechanic's shop to get my motorcycle fixed."

"Oh Mason? Like your average grease monkey. Short, compact, solid, built low to the ground, thick through the shoulders and chest. Keeps his clothes covered with a bib. Not that his clothes were all that clean to start with."

"Hmm, garage mechanic, likes to tinker with toys and technology, take them apart and put them back together again," Harper interrupted. "Kindred spirit, at least." Where can I find him? We could compare notes."

"Mr. Harper," Dylan interrupted, "Now is not the time for levity?"

"I rather thought it was," Harper replied, and went back to tinkering with the motorcycle.

"Thank you, Mr. Harper," Dylan said, keeping his tone even and precise. "Mr. Ryan, did this Mason person give you a reason or a motive for your selection or choice of destination?"

"None really, " Richie sighed. "Except that it was supposed to be an opportunity of a lifetime and an adventure."

"I like him." Trance beamed at Richie.

"On that recommendation alone," Dylan replied, "I would be willing to grant you the benefit of the doubt. I trust your intentions are not hostile to this ship or anyone on board?"

"No, Sir," Richie replied, wriggling to a more alert position on the hard metal bed.

“Then, welcome aboard. I'll have to think more about how we'll orient you to your new reality and surroundings, but in the meantime, Mr. Harper will take you to the Machine Shop."

"Do I have to call you Sir?"" Richie asked as he stood up.

"It's either Dylan, Captain or Sir," Dylan said. "Why can't be people understand and follow basic military protocol.

"Cause we're not military," Beka drawled.

"That must be it." Dylan replied. "Do you accept my offer, Mr. Ryan?"

"Yes!" I mean, Yes, sir," Richie replied.

"Excellent," Dylan smiled. "Everyone clear out of here, and give Trance time to clean up. If anyone needs me I'll be in my quarters. Beka you have helm."

"Come on," Harper grinned, tugging at the taller young man's sleeve. "I want to go over this machine of yours and you're the best person to help me."

"Sounds good to me, " Riche replied.
**

INTERLUDE

Meanwhile, outside in the corridor, Methos leaned up against the metal door that stood ajar and eavesdropped on the conversation. Methos was astounded and pleased at the enormous size and sheer deadly elegance of the ship. Methos tried not to let it show. Methos assumed he succeeded for Hunt had given a very quick tour then Dylan had left Methos alone in crew quarters and departed immediately after for the Medical Bay telling he would be back and then he would be given a proper shakedown and medical exam.

As worrisome as that was, it was doubled so when he the early warning sign that all Immortals shared kicked in. Highly unlikely to find another Immortal here, but it's worth checking out," Methos said aloud and darted into the corridors to track down the source of the buzz.

**

 

"Bloody hell, its Macleod's protégé, that Ryan kid. What is 'he’ doing here? I'd like to find out more about this wrinkle before I act on anything. I just hope Richie has the smarts enough not to allow that mouth of his to get us both in trouble before I'm ready."

 

It was that instant that the fine dark hairs at the base of his neck tinkling, a warning of more conventional danger. A big man loomed up behind him, muscled dark hair coiled in dread-locks and with one yank of a strong hand, hurled Methos away from the door to the medical bay and across the corridor where his slide came to a halt by a metal bulkhead.

"Spy! I know Dylan had poor taste when it came to picking up strays, but this is absurd. Give me one excellent reason why I should not kill you where you stand." He almost purred the threat, instead of shouting, and

Methos came to the rapid conclusion that subtle nuances were more intimidating than a shout would be.
Methos ran his options through his mind and that sometimes he brazen through this confrontation instead of fighting. He was here, after all at Captain Hunt's invitation.

"I'm not a spy," and you don't have to kill me," Methos grinned. "The name is Methos. Nice to make your acquaintance."

"Tyr Anasazi", the other man said," Give me one excellent reason why I should not kill you where you stand."

"I am here, at the gracious invitation of your Captain Hunt."

Methos thought, with cynical, detached amusement that in the 'old days ' during the height of the Prohibition, Tyr would have been called 'a human stealth bomber, or something more animalistic, perhaps a panther.

Methos's mind scanned through all the possibilities and determined 'definite threat, borderline paranoid, and a valuable resource to exploit. In the silence of his mind ''I don't trust this Tyr, Anasazi for an instant.' While
this flashed through his mind Methos smiled, a narrow thinning of his lips. "Come again."

"Given the hovering you have been occupied in ever since his arrival I assumed you were his father," Tyr replied.

"You're mistaken," Methos griped. "The kid doesn't have a father. And the closet anyone ever came to fitting that description, well let's just say it was 'complicated."

"An odd viewpoint. To most of the sentient races propagation of the species and the nurturing of children assures us of immortality into future generations."

"There are other ways," Methos mutters, scowling at just how close Tyr Anasazi's shots in the dark come close to extracting information that Methos would prefer kept hidden for the time being. It was already difficult with that purple girl medic dropping hints about his and Ryan's unusual biochemistry back in the medical lab and now this third degree. In the back of his mind, Methos had to admit if they're positions had been reverse grilling intruders on their motives and origins would only be sensible. This was getting out of hand.

"Then why are you here?" Tyr demanded.

"Hell if I know."

"Do you have children?" You have prior knowledge of the Neitchanzan race?'

"No, should I?" Methos replied.

 

"Fascinating," Tyr said. "You are fortunate. I have been ordered to 'to teach you and your 'son' that you have renounced responsibility for, to 'follow the ropes."
Methos shrugged. "Fine by me." But I ask you, if our positions were reversed would you be crazy enough to take on the job?"
***
Conclusion

"So! Beka Valentine pounced on Tyr the second they were alone in the corridor out of earshot of the others.

"Yes?"

"So what do you think?"

"Of your outfit, flattering but a little risqué." Tyr eyed the blond human female's ensemble, extremely form-fitting, snug in all the right places; a black short sleeve shirt covered by a silver wire mesh, that covered everything but was so sheer it left very little to the imagination. Attractive and a worthy female except for one drawback: She was not a Nietzchean female.

"Not the damn outfit. Beka yelled, tearing at strands of her blond hair. "You can be infuriatingly dense but only when it suits you. What do you think of the two strays Dyaln picked up?"

"They originate from Old Earth, obviously someone' escaped slaves, If so, they their masters might come looking for them." Tyr replied, folding his arms across his massive chest. "They're human flotsam. Our good captain seems quite fond of picking up strays."

"Watch it," Beka sneered, "Or you counting myself and my crew among the 'strays?"

Beka, impatient, reckless and fearless stood tapping her booted foot against the metal floor of the corridor. Tyr shook his head," I for one believe that our new crew members are not telling us everything they know."

"Knowledge is power," Beka smirked, "Care to tell me how you came to that conclusion? Spill it. Inquiring minds want to know."

"Not enough for the moment, but I can tell that they're hiding something, both the older and the younger. As our friend Trance would say, 'they have 'old souls,'. And I mean to discover what she meant about their unusually high levels of Electro chemistry."

"Chemistry? I excelled at chemistry. Can I help?" Beka asked. "So we watch them and then we pounce."

"Indeed," Tyr allowed a small grin to slip out. "We should return to the helm, Trance is not yet well versed in piloting in the slip stream."

Chapter Text

Disclaimer: Andromeda and all related characters, events and concepts are the property of Tribune Entertainment and Firestone. Takes place at about the time of the season 1 episode “The Mathematics of Tears.” A few liberties have been taken with the exact details of the fight aboard the Maru and with Jill Pearce.
Highlander: the Series belongs to Rysher Television, Panzer/Davis Productions and its related producers and creators; they are not mine. Note: This would be the sequel to “What Does Not Kill You”.
Prologue

Richie first’s thought upon entering the Machine Shop, was he had entered a techie geek’s dream come true: the entire large, rectangular room that was roughly the size of a football field, appeared to be nothing more than a hodge-podge of mechanical equipment and tools scattered haphazardly by a wind storm.

“Follow my lead, and I won’t steer you wrong,” Harper announced as he dragged his new trainee along in his. Wake. The voluble, disheveled and talkative blond engineer continued to rattled off a stream of helpful advice and mechanical theories and speculations. Most of the talk registered on Richie’s brain and then popped like a soap bubble. Trying to keep up with both the track of the conversation and the route and the corridors that all looked alike to him Richie missed a great deal of the one-sided conversation.

Richie still felt a lingering lassitude from the effects of what he privately referred to as the longest jet lag in history carefully stepped over the piles of tools and loose silver and white deck plating that appeared banded with black streaks as if they had been burned from either an attack or an electrical short.

Richie moved forward and took a seat on the edge of a metal work bench. The work bench, itself none too clean, its surface buried underneath a pile of sheer floppies the color of the jellyfishes he had once nearly stepped on, barefoot, on a long ago trip to the beach, lay in stacks.

Harper paused for breath, leant over to pick up an object from another work bench and hurled it in Richie’s direction, who responding to instinct more than sight, palmed the device. “Reminds me of Mason’s back room workshop,” Richie muttered under his breath. Richie turned the handheld device over and over in his head, puzzled why any one would place so many damn blinking readouts and push buttons on a something that reminded him of a personal digital assistant. His scattered thoughts were interrupted a moment later when Harper came up to plant himself directly in front of him and stuck on his hand. “Seamus Zealany Harper.

“Richie started and rose to his feet. “Riche Ryan of Seacouver, Washington.”

“Trust in the Harper. The Harper is good. Nice reflexives,” the engineer commented. You any good at fixing things?”

“Not really. Does fixing my bike when it has a flat tire count? I mean, I used to sort of run a dojo and have to keep up with the books and other stuff when it came to maintenance, but most of that involved calling someone else in,” Richie replied.

Harper shrugged, “That’s better than nothing. Everybody’s gotta start somewhere.”

Speaking of which, would you believe that I spent the better part of my young adult youth running cargo and salvage runs, and now look at me: acting engineer of the most powerful ship in this or maybe any other galaxy.”

“I honestly don’t know, “ Richie sighed and then a muffled growl from his stomach reminded him that he hadn’t eaten anything since his arrival on board. “I’m starved. You have anything to eat?”

“Sandwiches are still in their packaging in the back, if you want some, help yourself,” Harper replied. “You haven’t much of this ship yet, right?”

“Right,” Richie smiled, trying to muster some of the other man’s enthusiasm, Mason had spoken nothing but the truth when had said this was an adventure, so where did Richie get off complaining and griping that it was not the adventure he had wanted or envisioned.

“This garage mechanic,” Harper asked, cocking his head to one side, thinking something through, “do you have any idea of the calculations he used to account for the shift in the time-stream. Or don’t worry, it’s not that I don’t believe you, it’s just it made think of an incident not that long ago, the tests I ran before the actual put up or shut up, where less than successful…”

“Huh? Mason, I remember a lot of theoretical stuff but I don’t think he explained the math behind it. He just told me to suit up in an orange flight suit and walk up the ramp into and the portal, no equations involved.”

“Darn,” Harper griped. “I was hoping to run a few computer simulations, still the raw data should still be in the Andromeda’s data banks, I’ll ask Rommie later.”

“Rommie?”

“Oh, wait, Harper grinned. “I kept forgetting you haven’t had the tour or meet the ship’s avatar. Believe, it’ll be worth the wait. Let’s have at those sandwiches. I think this will work out just fine, just fine.” Richie could only nod and agree.

Elsewhere

Methos slid down the few remaining metal rungs of the ladder marked on his map as the hanger bay three. All the while, Methos wondered why in this particular future anyone engineer, cartographer or otherwise intelligent sane person would keep maps on wafer thin documents that resembled the underbellies of a jellyfish.

It was slippery, and grainy to the touch. His fingers twitched every time he had consulted the map in an attempt to navigate his way from he assigned quarters to this hanger bay. It was difficult, one the ship had many decks, two lumbering mechanical automatons kept dogging his heels but never actually impeded his progress.

Those he could avoid easily enough, it was the more prosaic flesh and blood shadow that he never quite shake. It had to be one of the crew members he had already met. Before he had set on his solo ‘inspection’ he had made certain of everyone’s whereabouts. The purple girl was in a large spacious area filled with plants that Methos would have called an arboretum.

The Captain was on deck with a furry, humanoid wearing a scarlet cape, that Methos had yet had the pleasure of an introduction, the human stealth bomber was in a gymnasium. And the engineer and Richie were still in the a engineering section that looked that it had been through a windstorm and only partially emerged undamaged.

“Unless I am very much mistaken,” Methos muttered aloud to himself, ”there is no one else aboard this ship. Richie and I are the only ‘intruders’ so why is every nerve ending in body screaming at me that I’m being followed? Damn it! I know you’re there!”

“It certainly took you long enough.” a mocking female voice called out from an undetermined direction. “You call that stealth! Hell, I could still sneak in, sneak out of the most heavily guarded vault in the known galaxy and not trip a single alarm.”

“A woman. I should have known,” Methos sighed hurling the map in the general direction of the voice. “You sound remarkably like another woman who happened to be a thief. It’s not exactly something to boast about.”

“Is that so? Care to tell me the name. I like to be able to identify my competition.”
And if that’s your way of coming on to me, I must say, I’m flattered.”

“Don’t be,” Methos replied. “Amanda.”

“What?

“Her name, the other thief, her name is Amanda.”

“Captain Beka Valentine, Acting First Officer at your service, “ She marked her entrance with a mocking salute jumping down from the top of another ladder across the way from where Methos stood with has back to the wall.

She had short, tousled blond hair that sparkled with silver highlights as if she had bleached it or sprayed silver paint into the thin strands. She had icy blue eyes and wore a short sleeved black shirt covered with a silver fest and black slacks.

“Methos, my ‘friends’ call me Adam Pierson.”

“If it’s all the same to you, madam, I prefer to have my conversations face to face. Call it a personality quirk.”

“Sure, not a problem. “I don’t trust you.”

“I respect that. I don’t trust very many people.”

“You’re not supposed to do that.” It makes arguing lose its appeal.”

“Sorry, not in the mood.”

“You’re not sorry. I know a dodge when I hear one,” Beka stated. “Why are you here?”

“What is this, a conspiracy. Tyr already tried to interrogate me. I think the more important question to be addressed: “What do you want?”

“Do you want to remain aboard this ship, as you may or may not have noticed our good Captain Hunt is a tad obsessed with restoring his Commonwealth.”

“I’ve noticed,” Methos replied, smiling a tight-lipped smile. “Well, the easy answer is at the moment I don’t have many options, and I certainly do not wish to return to the rock that he found by escape pod on.”

“Fair enough. We all have secrets, some people are just better at hiding it than others.” Beka smiled.

Beka came forward and startled Methos by planting a big wet kiss directly upon the lips. “Let’s play who can find out each other’s secrets first, makes the game more interesting,” then disappeared down a branching hallway.

 

Interlude
Later

‘Mason and his double talk, I should have walked out of the entire crack-brained scheme was brought up. ‘ Richie walked down the corridors, trying to recall the route to the crew quarters from the lines on the map he studied in the Machine Shop, but all could remember were colorful swirls of red and blue wavy lines, not much help to him in finding his quarters and a warm, comfortable bed.

At that moment, a door hissed open in the wall, and the girl he remembered from the medical bay, the one with the purple skin and blond hair, stood framed in the light coming from her room, purple tail swishing back and forth.

“Richie?” she asked, concern coloring her voice.

“Trance, isn’t it?’

“I am sorry. I should have looked on you before this, as the acting chief Medical Officer, I need to be concerned with the welfare of the crew, and since you’re now a passenger as well, and the scans I’ve had Andromeda track on your vitals, I’m worried.”

“You were worried about me? Richie flushed, the blush bringing color to his pale cheeks. “Harper and I eat already, so I’m good there.”

“You will be good for each other,” Trance grinned. “Come in.”

Richie looked around and sat down in a peach-colored chair that looked like a bean bag that was part of a circle of other pastel colored chairs in the center of the room. The light glinted down on a table resting next to a bed. He yawned, but for some reason was too tired to sleep, letting Trance run through a series of questions and checks of his vitals. Seemingly satisfied with what she found, Trance seated herself facing opposite from him.

“Talk about anything,” Trance encouraged. “We’re all friends here. Despite their outward suspicious nature, Tyr and Beka will come around, you’ll see.”

“How can be you be so sure?” Richie asked, plucking at the fabric with the fingernail of his left hand. “While we were in the hospital I could hear how he was giving Methos the third degree.” Unless, that’s some kind of new crew member initiation, kind of a shakedown.”

“I could speak to Dylan about implementing a new shipboard policy for new crew members and officers,” Trance giggled, wrapping her tail around in a tight circle and tucking underneath her folded legs as she shifted position on the cushions.

“You’re kidding, right?”

“Mostly,” Trance replied.

“You know what?” Richie suddenly burst out. “I think that’s what is bothering me the most. This entire adventure isn’t turning out the way I expected it would.”

“What did you expect?” Trance asked, her eyes shading to a deeper shade of purple.

“How the hell should I know? I’ve never been to the future before!” Richie shouted and then shifted his embarrassed and angry gazed away from Trance’s insistent one.

“Richie” Trance said. “Look at me. Don’t feel bad, I was not trying to shame or tease you, and I am sorry if it was taken that way. I understand.”

“You do. You see my people believe there are many possible futures, many alternate realites, many ways for the decisions that people make to shift the balance of our lives.”

“Could you stop with the cryptic advice,” Richie griped, “I think I’m getting a headache.”

“I’ve heard tell that time travel has a tendency to cause that, but seriously, I think I can help,” Trance said.

“Ok,” Richie, sighing and holding his breath, then releasing it. “I guess that’s why I’m here,” gesturing with his right hand the dimly lit room, “I want to talk to somebody who would understand, who won’t look at me funny and think I’m crazy.”

“I will listen,” Trance said.

“Promise not to laugh or judge?” Richie asked.

“If I were to pass judgment on my fellow shipmates, we would not now be sitting here having this conversation,” Trance replied. “You’ll find that out soon enough. You do not have to take my word for it, but Richie,
everything has a reason, and if this Mason knew enough to send you here, than it has been left to you to find out what that reason is.”

“Yeah, because he wanted to test his machine, and I happened to be available,” Richie.

“You think it’s that simple?” Trance asked.

“Maybe. If I still can’t figure out Methos, and I’ve known him a long time, I doubt I’ll be able to guess what Mason was up to.”

“Indeed. Which reminds me, Tyr left a message with me, stating that it was for you. He has asked to meet with you in the Arboretum. Would you like some company? I am going in that direction as well,” Trance said.

“Thank you,” Richie. “Do I need to know what I’m getting myself into?”

“With Tyr, being who he is and what he is, a Neitzchean” Trance sighed, “Expect the unexpected. Get some sleep, whatever Tyr has mind, for your own sake, it is best that you be well rested.”
Training

The following morning Richie woke up, his slumber had been surprisingly free from the troubling images and endless replays of the last few encounters with his old mentor and friend, Duncan Macleod. Instead, he woke refreshed if a bit rumpled, having slept in his clothes. He walked over to the adjoining room where he found the wash room ‘or the head or whatever it’s supposed to be called aboard ship’ Riche thought, splashing water on his face and washing the grit of sleep dust out of his eyes, remembering that he was still due to meet Tyr.

Richie had only heard him grilling and hassling Methos, but had never actually had an opportunity to meet the man face to face, but from Trance’s roundabout hints, Richie had no idea exactly what to expect. “Might as well get it over with,” Richie murmured to his reflection.

“Tyr,” Richie called out.

“Over here.” a deep baritone voice replied, sounding mellow and menacing at the same time. The man came forward holding a long metal pole roughly the size of the poleaxes he had seen in museums, banded at both the top and the bottom with a gold rounded top, and blinking readouts. The big, black haired, black bearded man held one in either hand.

“What are those things?“ Richie asked.

“They are called force lances: weapons that belonged to high-ranking officers of the Commonwealth.” Tyr flexed the muscles of his broad shoulders and angled his head back and forth for a few seconds of mutual inspection that had Richie thinking of a black panther. The man wore a chain and metal affair that made the chiseled muscles of his torso plain to view. Richie sighed and wondering what the hell he had gotten himself into.

“I do not know or care who your previous teacher was, but let me assure I will not tolerate any attitude problems.” Tyr stated.

“Why are you bothering to train me at all?” Richie demanded. “Another thing I don’t get it,” Richie replied. “Why officers would bother to carry around something that looks like a retractable high-tech pogo stick.”

“And Dylan insists that I have no sense of humor.” Tyr growled when he recovered from his bout of laughter. “ I shall remember to tell him that one.”

“Do you think Captain Hunt will be mad?” I mean this Commonwealth stuff seems pretty important to him,” Richie said.

“It is.“

“Why did you ask me here?” Richie asked.

“If you are going to become a member of this crew as our good Captain insists, you had better learn how to handle yourself in a fight.” Tyr replied.

“Man,” Richie mumbled, “You sure don’t pull any punches.” Do I have a choice in the matter?”

“A simple one, die or survive.” Tyr replied, folding his massive arms over his chest, and then tossing Richie one of the force lances, which he caught by its rounded knob.

“Not much of a choice. Let’s say I go through with this, promise not to knock me down on my ass one too many times, agreed?” Richie said.

Tyr eyed the short blond young man, a speculatively and unreadable gleam in his black eyes, the human appeared to be taking the proposition of combat training seriously enough, and he a decently muscular build, better than that of the Little Professor’s anyway, and there was a look in the blue eyes that the Netichzan could respect. Aloud, all he said was: “Agreed.”

Tyr, for all his bulk came forward with surprising speed, his weapon held out like a very long gun, which surprised Richie, because he was expecting to have to use the lance to start out like a quarter staff and trade and block blows. Instead Tyr thumbed one of the blinking readouts on the weapons smooth surface and hot burst of energy nearly caught him a glancing blow on the side of his left ear, if Richie had not ducked in time.

The blast completed its trajectory tearing a steaming hole in the wall behind. “So, it’s a laser weapon, like a tazer?” Richie shook his head, his ears ringing from the near miss, reached up with a free hand to feel at his left lobe, checking to see if it was still attached to his head.

“Carries an electrical charge?”

“Yes. Return fire.” Tyr ordered.

“How? There are too many buttons.”

“Second row to the left.”

Richie thumbed and a burst of hot laser light darted from the weapon and watched Tyr dodge the fire, whirl around and use the weapon as staff, swinging it narrow looping arcs, coming into range for a swipe at Richie’s ribs. Richie twirled the lance in his hands and parried the blow, which was good, but the force but the muscular Neitzhchean’s strike was such that Richie was forced to take several staggering steps backwards. “How long did the Commonwealth, using one these for weapons?” Richie asked, when he had recovered and could breathe again.

“Long enough, and you would be surprised at the array of weapons the Commonwealth had its disposal both at its height and during its fall, but we are not here to discuss history,” Tyr replied. “Continue the lesson.”

“Ryan, you are injured,” Tyr stated in a tone that sounded like someone commenting on the weather, to say whether it was raining, or if it was cold, as it was too obvious for any display of emotion, except for the stark observation. Richie looked down at his forearm where a long, bloody slash bled freely.

“It’s just a scratch. It will heal.” Richie slid on the sweat slicked cold floor, leaning on the long haft of the force lance. He wondering how far he could chuck the piece of junk and if so, if doing so it would damage the planted flowers and bonsai trees across the way.

“I would asscribe such a cavalier attitude either to someone trying to mask that he is in in pain or one who simply does not care. Which is it?”

“You have all the answers. You tell me.” Richie snapped.

“Methos declared he will take no responsibility for you. Odd as it may sound, my survival and perhaps our continued well-being is dependent on the actions and decisions of everyone aboard this ship. The monk is a pacifist and a Magog. Two things and ideologies I find difficult to reconcile.” Tyr allowed a twisted half-smile to curve his bearded lips.

“Methos doesn’t want anything to do with me?” Richie muttered, grinding the butt end of the what he referred to as a high-tech laser pogo stick, into a crack in the metal floor. “I never did understand what Mac found so fascinating about that guy.” I mean, sure, he appeared out of nowhere. He knew more about everyone and everything than he should.”

“Care to elaborate?” Tyr asked, scenting an opportunity to gain more information about the enigmatic stranger from someone who obviously possessed firsthand knowledge.

“You want to figure out Methos, Hah, that’s a good one,” Richie muttered, “You and everybody else. So, all I can say, is take a number and get in line.”

“That is all?” Tyr asked.

“Yeah.”

“Very well, I will have to accept that for now. We will continue your lessons tomorrow morning,” Tyr said.

“Fine by me,” Richie shrugged and left the room the doors sliding to a close behind with a whoosh.

 

A week later

The klaxon blared throughout the entire ship, loud as the beating of his heart forcing Richie upright and he banged his head on the shelf of the paneling that Harper had rewiring. He stood up and ran his hands through his hair when instructions came through ordering all hands to report to the command deck. Dashing into the hallway Richie nearly collided with a grumbling, disheveled Methos. Richie skidded to a halt in front of the door to the command deck and it opened it with a soft hissing sound, and they entered.

Methos glared at Captain Hunt out of the corner of one eye and gritted his teeth, an unreadable expression on his pale face. Tyr stalked by, a paperback book in one hand. Richie, his curiosity taking the place of his shock, he gazed around at the Andromeda’s command deck, relaxing his rushed breathing and racing heart, seeing that the crew not only seemed to know what to do but were acting with measured and confident responses to the emergency, whatever it was.

Beka, seated in what looked to be a bucket seat on a roller coaster ride at an amusement park, his posture and attitude deceptively relaxed but with a dangerous undertone, her hands curled around the controls, demanded: “What the hell is going on?”

“We’re here in response to a distress signal, and we’ll need to move in closer to that stellar cloud that we’re within 200 yards of the vessel.,” Dylan replied.

“Hardly an occasion to sound general quarters,” Beka grumbled, but guided the ship closer to the indicated coordinates flashing across her console at the helm.

Rev Bem stood at Dylan’s left side and slightly behind the captain, his furry hands lightly resting on the science stations controls. “The Divine will provide.”

“I wish I had your faith in the unknown and the invisible, old friend,” Beka whispered. “I prefer to work with what I can see and touch.”

“We are within range for scanners to provide a visual of the ship.”
Harper, the air a soft hiss from between his teeth, “Well, I’ll be damned. Will you look at that.”

“A Highguard ship. But that’s impossible,” Beka shouted. “According to all the historical records up to and leading to the fall of the Commonwealth, no ships could have survived.”

“Looks like they missed one.”

“There is something amiss here,” Rev whispered. “Something missing from the equation. I can almost feel it. It is so close, but a fog covers my eyes as a the cloud of the nebula hides the ship from our sensors. By the Divine, I feel blind!”

“Rev, don’t sweat it. We’ll check it out, right, Boss?” Harper said.

“Beka, take Ryan and Methos with you, but make sure they stay out of harm’s way. I’m holding you responsible for their welfare,” Dylan ordered.

“I am not a baby sitter,” Beka snarled.

“I realize that,” Dylan replied. “But you’re second in command, and since they’re part of the crew, in a way we’re responsible for each other. Please, I don’t want an argument right now.”

“Seems you never want an argument,” Beka replied. “We go in armed, I wouldn’t feel right about going into unknown territory without weapons.”

 

“Agreed,” Dylan replied.

“Captain, “ the ship’s electronic voice, broke into the conversation, “ I have completed the scans of the ship, sensors confirm that not only is it a High Guard ship, it is the Pax Magellenic, commanded by Captain Warrick.”

“Wasn’t the Pax lost with all hands aboard during the Battle of Witchhead?” Dylan mused.

“Affirmative.”

“Tyr, you have helm, stay here with Rev Bem,” Dylan said, “Meanwhile, the rest of us will take a little tour of the Pax. “Get whatever gear you need and we’ll leave within the hour.”

“Should we look for survivors?” Beka asked.

“In that murk?” Tyr shrugged. “Doubtful, but someone must have transmitted the distress signal.”

 

“Could be an automated one,“ Richie suggested. “I mean, how long could anyone survive in there?” He pointed out at the cloudy clump of dark matter and stellar matter that lay displayed on the screen, swirling in eddies, like a pond disturbed by a thrown rock.

Methos took the opportunity to fix the image of the mirror image ship in his mind. Aside from the streaks of black that criss-crossed the gleaming silver hull of the ship, mute evidence of the conflicts the ship had sustained, it looked imposing, and beautiful; while he couldn’t help comparing it to the both the air and sea going ships he had seen or traveled aboard back on old Earth, still Methos was impressed.

The Andromeda herself was incredible, its silver hull gleaming in the black blanket of outer space like another star: The Pax Magellan seemed another creatures, a huge life form struggling to break free of a net it had fallen into. At that moment, Methos desperately wanted not only to explore the ship but discover all of its mysteries. He did not want to share them with this band of fools.

****
Beka and her small squad trooped the down the metal hallways of the Pax, Richie was beginning to get a very bad feeling about the entire mission. It was both fascinating and almost eerie about how closely not only the exterior but also the interior of the ship resembled her twin, the Andromeda Ascendant. He darted glances at his companions, and saw the same thought reflected on their faces as well.

The crew of the Pax they had met seemed genuinely grateful of other people after only God knew how long they had been trapped aboard this ship in the stellar nebula, but Richie could not help feeling there was something not quite right about them. There movements were too stiff, too precise, their words too well rehearsed, if that didn’t sound completely insane. Unfortunately, Richie couldn’t explain why he felt that way and a uncomfortable made itself known at the nape of his neck, the short blond hairs rising on end.

“I could shoot myself in the foot,” Richie grumbled, eyeing with disgust the growing number of smoking holes in the metal deck plates, walls, and floors that were evidence of his less than accurate aim with the force lance.

“Worse things could happen,” Harper grinned.

”Funny, very funny,” Richie complained.

“Wait,” Beka interrupted, “Yes, Dylan,” as a crackle in her ear signaled a message coming through on her the communication device.

“You want to trade that force lance in for a laser blaster,” the engineer asked, raising a blond eyebrow, following Beka’s instruction as he did so.

“Geez, more lessons,” Richie, still he couldn’t help mull the offer over.

“Every ship has an avatar, how could it lose it’s AI system?”

“I hear music,” Methos said. “Operatic, sounds German, unless my ear for the classical has completely deserted me.”

“Not right now, Methos.” Beka sighed.

“The proto energy drive that guides the ship’s slipstream drive has been ejected. Unless we do something, this ship isn’t going anywhere.”

“Negative, “ Dylan replied over the communications link. “The ship is missing is avatar.”

“How is that possible?” ” Beka replied.

“Your guess is as good as mine. I’ll keep investigating on my end. In the meantime, keeping checking for clues on your end, and tell Harper to head over to the engineering computer core, see if he can fix the damage to the slip stream drive.“ .” Dylan’s voice, over the communication relay was muffled, but confident.

Later

”They’re not human!” Harper yelled, darting around corner of corridor junction e at a full run and into corridor where Beka, Methos and Richie stood examining a computer interface and skidded to a halt, gasping for air. “Dutch just tried to kill me!”

“Calm down, Harper,” Beka said.

“Androids. And that’s not our only problem. “Can you fix it?” Beka asked.

“Sure,” except for the small matter of dodging laser blasts. I’ll need to get the ship’s computer core and then jack in.”

“Go to it,” Beka replied.

“Can’t you tell the AI to shut down the power to the androids or tell them to call off their attack?”

“We’re aware of the situation.”

“Can’t you tell the AI to shut down the power to the androids or tell them to call off their attack?” Beka asked.

“Negative, “ Dylan replied over the communications link. “The ship is missing is avatar.”

“Every ship has an avatar, how could it lose it’s AI system?”

“It’s complicated, Beka. I’m working on that problem with the one of the senior officers, Jill Pearce. Rev and I have already checked the ship’s memory logs by tapping into the core. There’s more going on here than meets the eye.” Dylan explained.

“Pearce?” Beka wondered. “She was the second of command when the ship fought the Neitchzeans, it’s her understanding that the device they detonated not only trapped the ship here but also prevented them from aging.”

“Neat trick,” Beka remarked.

“Tyr is headed your way with the Maru. Head for the hangar and rendezvous with him there.”

“That’s my ship!” Beka shouted, indignant and extremely possessive of her beloved cargo ship.

“I know, I ordered Tyr to take extra care of the Maru. Dylan out.”

Beka acknowledged the end of the transmission and quickly thumbed the off switch, then turned her attention back to her small squad: “Okay, people, listen up. We’re up against a bunch of psycho androids. Form up, and follow me!” Beka ordered.

“That’s exactly what I said.” Harper appeared to want to add something more, but whatever it was lost in the crescendo of sound, whine of metal collapsing under sheer duress as something loud, heavy, and metallic exerted force from the other side of the doors.

“Let’s go,” Richie shrugged.

“You get shot, boy and I’m the last person who will cover you,” Methos grunted.

“I feel ‘so’ much better now.” Richie replied, ignoring the darting glance Methos shot at him, and hefted his force lance, thumbing the charger to active.

“Enough of this,” Beka shouted at Methos. “I’m no more happy about this situation there you are, but whatever grudge you have against Ryan, you had better set it aside here and now or we are all going to die. That’s an direct order, Mr. Methos!”

Methos stumbled back a pace and regarded Beka with a mocking twist to his lips, and not with some astonishment. “Yes, Ma’am.” he finally replied.

“I’m no expert, but that can’t be good,” Methos remarked, indicating the splitting and groaning metal with an extended arm. No sooner were the words out of his mouth then the doors gave way.

The charge was led by the ship’s Engineer, the black man whom had identified himself as Dutch, and the other members of the command officers, not one strand of hair was out of place; their uniforms starched and ironed up to High Guard regulation; too perfect. “Andriods,” Methos murmured. “What are chances that we could stand up and fight these things?

“You don’t want to know,” Beka replied, “We make a run for it, trade fire when we have to, and stay together.” She whirled and dodged laser blasts twisting and agile as a mountain cat. Meanwhile the androids tore up metal plating like it was constructed of paper maiche.

Methos observed the destruction and wondered ‘what the hell have I gotten myself into?’

A bolt of laser energy sweeping in a wide deadly arc blazed from their androids hand weapons, missing them, but tearing a gaping hole in the wall. The group ducked and coughed in the resulting smoke and fire caused by the damage.

Richie felt his heart pounding in his chest, his lungs gasping for more air, and it was not all due to the smoke. He racked his brain for memories of Tyr’s training in using the weapon he held in sweating palms, and when he had it, returned fire.

 

Richie’s heart nearly stopped when he sensed Methos’ presence nearby and the older Immortal’s hand grasp his shoulder and pull out the path of another deadly barrage of lasers. Richie nodded and following the quiet instructions that Methos relayed via Beka’s hand signals, twisted and ran down another intersecting hallway.

Beka came to a skidding stop at the entry to docking bay, cursing a blue streak when she saw that the controls that opened the door were smoking and twisted to a smoldering heap. “Damn it!” she shouted, pounding her fist into the wall, recoiled and swore again, clutching her pain-laced hand. “I should have seen this coming. Still, even if we had found the access controls intact, the AI might have cut of the power.”

They entered the docking bay where the Eureka Maru waited, offering safety and escape. It’s barrel-shaped hull gleaming in the dim emergency lighting, and casting long shadows on the walls, floors and ceilings.

At that instant, a loud explosion drowned out everything else. A large shadow filled the doorway and Tyr strolled into the corridor, the largest laser gun Richie had ever seen even in movies, draped over one massive shoulder.

“You certainly took your time,” Beka greeted the newcomer.

“Did I miss anything,” Tyr replied, unfazed by her belligerent angry attitude.

“The Maru is ready for docking. Were you followed?”

Methos risked a quick glance over his shoulder, “That would be a definite yes.”

“Hurry then, get aboard the Maru and take off,” Tyr replied.

“Go.” Beka ordered. She gave Richie and Methos a shove and indicated a barrel-shaped gold and black ship

“Maybe we should all leave, like, right now,” Richie said.

“No one gets left behind on my watch,” Beka insisted. “Harper is still in the slip stream drive trying to figure out how to get this gorgeous death trap moving again, and Dylan hasn’t checked in and someone should go find
him.

“I will retrieve them,” Tyr offered.

The androids entered the docking bay, hurtling forward line linebackers in full blitz, forcing Beka and Tyr to back-pedal until they were backed up against the Maru’s hull, the ramp to the door still down. Methos and

Richie crouched just far back enough to provide covering fire. “This is nuts!” Richie griped. “The more we knock them down they just keep getting back up.”

“Keep firing!” Beka cried.

“What the hey?” Methos muttered.

Without warning, the androids came to a grinding, screeching halt, their limbs and dropping to their sides like puppets whose strings had been cut, and the whine of laser fire, harsh breathing, and smoldering metal came to a stand still.

“I don’t know what happened, “ Beka said over her shoulder to the other members or her small team, ‘but let’s not look a gift horse in the mouth,’ if you’ll pardon the cliché. Let’s get the hell out of here.”

“They were playing Wagner. That was the most fun I’ve had in weeks,” Tyr said.

Chapter Text

Disclaimer: Andromeda is the creation of Gene Roddenberry, produced by Tribune Entertainment and Fireworks, and all characters, concepts, and events are theirs, and do not belong to me.
Highlander: the Series is the property of Rysher Television, Gauamount, Panzer/Davis Productions.
Note: Title inspired by the W. B Yeats poem” The Second Coming”
The story picks up shortly off where “Where There is Life, There is Hope” left off.
Contains spoilers for the first season episode “Fear and Loathing in the Milky Way.”
“The Center Can Not Hold, Things Fall Apart” by Karen
Prologue

Harper smirked, his face stretched into a mingled expression of delight and excitement. He held the wafer thin document underneath the micro-reader and concentrated on the schematics. So focused was his concentration so that he was all but oblivious to the ringing of the communication systems in the background.

As far back as he could remember Seamus Harper’s life up until his stint on the Andromeda, had mainly consisted of a series of mistakes and bad luck, and get-rich-quick schemes, and usually it was due to his own intelligence and uncanny kind of luck that allowed him to land on his feet no matter the heights he insisted on jumping off from.

In the back of his mind Harper thought that it had more to do to knowing the right questions to ask and knowing where to look than luck that had allowed him to stumble across the information that he had stored in his own personal data file. The ship’s avatar, Rommie, may be one of his prouder creations, but that was different. “It’s about time the Universe dealt me a good hand. Face it Harper, the Universe hates you. Deal with it.” he muttered under his breath. All that was about to change, or he would know the reason why.

At that second the face of the ship’s captain filled his computer’s monitor screen.

“Yeah, Boss,” Harper acknowledged the older man.

“Mr. Harper, report to the Command Deck,” Dylan replied, “I’ll go into more detail on the mission I have in mind once everyone is assembled. Is Mr. Ryan there with you?”

“Sure thing, Boss. Be right there.” Harper glanced around the crowded but spacious Machine Shop, noticing that Ryan was over by the opposite wall fiddling with a handful of exposed wires, a technical manual spread open on his lap. ‘Yeah, he’s here.

“Bring him with you.” Dylan ordered.
**

Meanwhile

Standing at the helm, a calm, serious expression on his face, Dylan Hunt regarded each of person as the filed onto the command deck. The hologram of the ship’s holographic avatar flashed onto a nearby computer screen to his right. Rommie, the ship’s physical avatar, stood beside it, a bemused expression on her face.

Dylan, his arms folded over his chest and his feet braced in a wide-legged stance couldn’t help but wish certain members of the crew could adopt a bit more of something resembling military discipline, but you couldn’t have everything.’ Dylan thought to himself. “Now that you’re all here. I have an announcement to make.”

“What we have here is a two-pronged opportunity to work towards building a new commonwealth. It will require a great deal of work, especially when it involves diplomacy.”

“I’ve got a bad feeling about this,” Beka muttered under her breath.

“I don’t like this,“ Methos grumbled.

“No one’s asking you,” Richie said.

“Mr. Harper, you will accompany Trance and Mr. Ryan on a good will mission. You’ll take the Maru and while there, I expect all of you to be on your best behavior. It wouldn’t do to lose a potential Commonwealth charter member because of a social faux pas.”

“Not a problem,” Harper replied, flashing a toothy grin.

“I wish you would be serious for once,” Beka sighed.

“I was,” Harper smiled.

“It is always good to trust your instincts,” Tyr announced in a snide tone as if it purest wisdom extract fully expecting the blond human woman to turn on him in mingled fury and exasperation, in fact he had been counting down the seconds mentally while Captain Hunt had been detailing the good will mission to other crew members.

“Why you over-grown, muscle bound, smug piece of Nietzchiean trash, what do you think has kept me alive and kicking all these years. My good looks?”

“Valentine, stand down,” Dylan ordered, deftly stepping in between the two verbal combatants.

Methos stared at the deck plates below his fate and wondered if his being on board this ship was some cosmic joke and that he would wake up to find himself back in his customary booth by the window in Joe Dawson’s jazz bar in Seacouver, Washington. When the noise of shouting voices had simmered down to a loud conversational roar, Methos found his surroundings and his circumstances unchanged. “Too much to hope for, I’m just glad this big ship is equipped with beer.”
**
Several days later

The place was packed. Harper and Trance counted more people crowded into one room: they sat the bar counter, crowded around tables, or where there were no seats to be had, stood against the walls or buffet tables, sipping various drinks and made desultory conversation.

Harper shook his head, and in the back of his mind, he had to admit when Dylan Hunt had first announced and conscripted them into joining his crusade about restoring the Commonwealth 300 years after its fall. Harper thought the man was either brilliant optimistic, or brilliantly insane. Still, here they all were, swept along in Dylan Hunt’s wake.

Now, Trance, Richie Ryan and he were on a good will mission, handing out flowers to the locals. Some things would just refuse to surrender to either common sense or logic.
**
Meanwhile a ship that could generously be described as geriatric approached a docking bay ringing the planet.

Its pilot cut its engines and signaled the space port authorities to be cleared him for a landing. A green light on his control panel lit up and the pilot acknowledged the clearances with a quick rap on a button and green light signal.

The pilot was a Nightsider, and he did not allow a small thing like outdated technology and electronics to stop him from obtaining his objective. Success and satisfaction would go hand in hand and would not skip a beat, or perhaps half a beat.

Gerentex knew what he was after, and he knew what he wanted from his quarry. Harper did not stand a chance. If Gerentex had been aware that the Andromeda’s acting chief engineer was not alone on his mission, perhaps the Nightsider would have adjusted his plans accordingly, but he didn’t and it was not about to stop him now. He had waited too long and nursed his grudge towards one of his former business associates. He needed the human. “Now all I have to do is find him.”

***
Encounter

Gerentex slid through the crowd, slipping in out like a shadow, trying to avoid detection. It’s not that who couldn’t stand exposure to bright light; it was just easier to use darkness as a shield and a natural defense. One, it was a natural instinct common to nightriders and two it would also make it easier to sneak up on the unsuspecting human engineer.

About an hour later Gerentex found Harper, but he was not alone. He had the girl, Trance Gemini with him, whom he had believed to be decently dead, along with another human who’s very proximity made the short hairs on the nape of his neck tingle. ‘A mystery for another time,” he thought. “Now how do I play this?” he muttered aloud.

“Lady Luck must be smiling on me today. What in the name of the Abyss are they doing here? Handing out flowers? Some things just do not make any sense.”

“Someone’s coming,” Richie muttered to Trance. Richie had wanted to talk with Methos about something that had been bothering him for a while, namely if they were the only two Immortals in this corner of the galaxy, but it was either his overly sensitive instincts that warning him of danger, or he really was going crazy.

“It’s just your imagination,” she replied

“It’s probably just another person wanting to take part in the new commonwealth celebrations, Chill, Richie,” Harper said.

“I’m cool,” Richie replied, but, he words trailed off when a lanky dark shadow leapt from the recesses of an upright statue, blitzed past his startled form and made a grab for Trance’s billowy, sleeved arm.

“I thought you were dead,” Gerentex blustered, drawing a knife on her. His instincts were screaming at him to correct his earlier mistake in not finishing her off properly.

Trance smiled, a narrowing of her lips, “Standard response,” she snatched her arm out of his cold grip. “The reports of my death were greatly exaggerated.”

“That’s a good one, Trance,” Richie remarked, giving the tall, lanky and dangerous looking alien the once over. “Do you mind if I borrow it sometime?” Richie added, giving Trance a shaky but confident grin.

“If you wish, Mr. Ryan,” Trance replied, her smile becoming a shade warmer. “But where are my manners? Or have we gone past the formal introductions? “Gerentex, you already know Harper, this Richie Ryan. Richie, Gerenetex.”

“Uh, pleased to meet you, I guess,” Richie stammered, hands a bit clammy from nerves and firmly shook the nightrider’s gloved hand.

“I don’t care about any that, although I must admit I am curious how you managed to survive a point blank laser blast, but that isn’t what I’m here for.” Gerentex replied, dropping the human’s hand and turning back to face Harper.

“It isn’t. Look if it’s money you’re after for stiffing you on that last salvage assignment?” Harper began. “You need help with that hunk of junk you call a ship. There are other competent engineers in the galaxy, you really don’t need me. Although I am the best.”

“Shut up, human,” Gerentex growled. “Actually, I need your help.” Gerentex growled each word out as if he were chewing the sheels of a night sider‘s favorite delicacy, scallops in a heavy, spicy sauce, and found it a bad mix.

“What do you want?” Richie demanded.

“What I want should not be discussed out in the open like this. Let’s go someplace private where we can talk,” Gerenetex said.

“This had better be worth it,” Harper muttered, and followed Gerentex to a shadowed alcove draped in heavy magenta and black drapery, Trance sniffing at the heavy layer of dust weighing down the fabric. Richie glanced around the crowded reception hall, checking to see if anyone took unwelcome attention to them or was tailing them.

“Common sense, or I am being paranoid?” he thought to himself. “We’re probably in more danger from this lanky alien then we are from any of the dignitaries here.’
**
“Damn, I know I put in here before I landed, give me a moment. I have something to show that will blow your tiny minds.” Gerentex smirked.

“Wait a nanosecond, I resent that remark!” Harper spluttered.

“Harper, let it go,” Richie whispered.
***
“If you’ll recall that last salvage operation set back quite a ways.”

Gerentex pulled out a genuine leather book with dog-eared pages and cream paper. Flipping it open to a the first few pages, he held out so everyone in the little group could get a good long look at the hand written scrawled signature of the book’s Hasutari.”

Harper glanced at Trance, then shuffled his feet and glared at the nightsider. “If this is a scam, it’s the lamest one I’ve ever seen. You can’t be sure this is the genuine article.”

“Oh, it’s all right, I checked with the Pereseid authorities.”

“It’s a map along with a diary of some guy named Hastauri, so what?” Richie said.

Trance intercepted the irritated Gerentex who was about to give Richie a swat,

“Cut him some slack, he’s a little rough around the edges, and he never heard of any of the local galactic legends before.”

 

“What planet is he from? Some place where everyone keep their heads in the sand like a bloody ostrich?” Gerentex griped and then agreed to do as Trance asked, turning to Richie. “Try to follow along as best you can, kid.” It’s a diary, one of collection of nine. Sifting through the clues, you’ll find that map will point towards the coordinates in slipstream that will lead to the lost planet of Tarn Vedra.”

“Why us?” Richie demanded.

“Harper and the purple girl used to work for me,” Gerentex.

“I am so gonna regret this,” Richie sighed.

“Whoa,” Harper whistled. “Do you what that means?” Talk about the next big score.”

“Yes, “ Trance nodded. “It’s a valuable bit of knowledge. We should find the remaining volumes in the series. In the wrong hands knowledge of this sort could be very dangerous.”

“We’ll need money. Lots of money.” Harper interrupted. “The El Dorado Drift. I know a place, at least I’ve heard of a place where we can get the cash we need and no questions asked,” Harper breathed air in through his nose and darted a smoldering look at the Nightsider. For his part Gerentex ignored the look and darted a gloved hand into a worn-looking rucksack he carried slung over his shoulder, drawing a worn, rusted handgun and thumbing the trigger button.
**
The Casino

Richie was just as happy to have arrived at their destination as he was not to have to listen to Harper and Gerenetex verbally spar with each anymore. He didn’t much care for whatever bones of contention the pair had. It was painfully obvious the two had met before and hot not parted on terms that were mutually beneficial.
Richie’s train of thought cut out when Trance signaled from the navigator’s seat that they were on the approach run to a place called Hernando De Soto Casino in the El Dorado Drift.

Richie had been to more than a few bars, casinos, and night clubs, and was painfully reminded of the time he had tried to bass himself as a high-stakes big time gambler in Paris. That was had been entertaining for a while until he had fall head over heels for a gorgeous blond French woman.

Things only began to go a bit off kilter when it turns out his act had been convincing enough to fool the woman and her accomplice that really was what he appeared to be. Then had drugged him, stashed him into a car, and held him hostage for his millions. The woman had been trying to safe her family estate from a greedy real estate developer. If it hadn’t been for Duncan Macleod, Richie would not have made out of that one with his clothes, his dignity or his life intact.

Things worked out for well for all concerned, the thing that saved the family estate was the fortunate and completely unlooked for bonus of centuries old wine cellar, bottles intact.

‘Hell‘, Richie thought, some of that classic vintage was probably as old the Scottish immortal himself, no wonder he recognized its value right away. Aloud he said: “Here I am, stuck in the future, frozen at early 20-something. and I’ve only been Immortal for what, by my reconciling would amount to ten years, if you don’t factor it’s about what several decades have passed between the 21st century and whatever year it is now. Damn it all, time-travel makes my head hurt.”

“You are a very peculiar human,” Gerentex commented over his shoulder to Ryan..

Richie spluttered the mouthful of his shot glass of a drink that tasted like vodka and beer, wiped his mouth on his sleeve and spent a few seconds getting his back pounded by a solicitous Harper. “Yeah, I get that a lot,”
Richie replied when he could speak again.

“Richie, take a deep breath. We’ll be fine, just play it close to the vest and act natural and everything will be fine,” Trance said.
**
Hours later, and a streak of phenomenal luck on Trance’s every throw of the die, they group had managed to pile a more than respectable stack of money. More than Harper had ever managed to get his hands on. The small group, stood in flat-footed awe as every die cast, and every card turn came up a winner. Richie helped himself to another champagne glass.

“Like the old saying goes, ‘in for a pound, in for a penny. Let it ride, Trance.” Richie grinned and finished off the remaining liquor in his glass in one swallow.
***

“You know, I’m new to this part of the galaxy and everything, but tell me, it’s not a good thing when a casino’s security people come after you at full speed ahead. Am I right?” Richie yelled to make himself heard over the whining of the Eureka Maru’s powering up its engines.

Harper couldn’t hear for a moment then adjusted his position in the pilot’s seat. “Don’t worry, it’s not big deal.”

“Did we or did we not win our jackpots fair and square?” Richie added.

“Uh, more or less,” Harper replied.

“Oh, I feel so much better now,” Richie griped, settling and double-checking how secure his seat belt , the harness automatically looping over his torso and his shoulders almost fusing the plastic of the seat’s back.

Hoping against hope that the cargo ship was sturdier and capable of withstanding any amount of punishment than it looked.

“Set it to autopilot,” Gerentrex said, “Do it, and none of your smart-ass remarks, Harper.”

 

Harper settled into the pilot’s seat, the computer’s voice coming in an he followed the programmed list of pre-flight checks automatically. He had just hit the last sequence of buttons on the console when he glanced out the view screen and realized that a small group of ships marked with the casino’s security forces and a ship he recognized and wished he didn’t shadowed their flight path. “Damn it!”

“We need to leave right away,” Trance said, settling herself into a passenger seat and buckling the harness restraint into place. “We’re attracting an undue amount of attention and I would like to keep the knowledge of where we’re going to a minimum.”

Something was bugging Richie, like an itch that he couldn’t quite reach, more than just the obvious mutual hatred flowing in waves from Harper and Gerentex.

Trance. Ordinarily, the purple skinned girl was sweet and kind, and gentle. It seemed like nothing bothered her. However, that last several jumps in the slipstream. Richie was getting better at figuring on the mechanics of navigating through the slipstream, but it still left a hollow feeling in his stomach.

Richie knew it wasn’t his over active imagination that made him believe that the wrangling was getting to Trance as well.

“Relax, I know a shortcut to the Antares system,” Harper yelled over his shoulder, his attention focused on maneuvering the Maru away from the docking bay and the artificial gravity that wrapped around the casino like a bubble. “We’ll able to lose them.”
**
Elsewhere

“I told you so,” Harper smirked.

“I hate it when you’re right,” Richie muttered to Harper. You crow about it and make everyone within earshot miserable.”

“We’re here, that’s what matters,” Harper replied.

“Would you shut up,” Gerentrex growled. “I’ll need to check the diary and orient our position.” He stood on the summit of a sheer mountainous terrain. The sky above was a clear, cloudless robin egg’s blue. To their left the vista opened out in a series of mountains of granite and sandstone. They were not here to admire the view.

“We need to go down.” he grunted and stashed the diary in his ever present rucksack.

Richie darted over to the edge of the drop and looked down. “How to do you propose to do that? It’s a forty foot drop, on the outside.”

“We came prepared.” Trance added. “I brought the climbing gear from the Maru and what I could scrounge up. We can rappel down and tie ourselves together.”

“I’m impressed,” Richie shook his head at Trance’s remarkable foresight.

“Indeed,” Gerenetex agreed. “Just remember one thing, human, ‘you fall and I’m the last person who will pick you up again.”

“Lovely,” Richie griped. “Just so we’re clear on where everyone stands on the issue” he said, accepting the end of the rope and his climbing gear. He waited till everyone had the equipment in place, the metal head of the grappling hook rammed into a nearby solid granite outcropping.

Gerenetex took the lead, Trance in the middle, Richie next and Harper bringing up the rear. The descent into the drop-off was accomplished in silence, swinging out and with mingled huffing and puffing of breath in their lungs. Until Gerenetex called out that his booted foot had hit the bottom.
**

The bottom was a wide cave with various entrances and exits looping out in circling tunnels carved out through centuries of action from a dried up river bed and natural erosion. The place smelled like hot concrete and mold. Rock formations thrust up from the tunnel floor or hung down from the ceiling.

“Let’s go.” Trance said and marched towards the exit to their immediate left.

“As good a direction as any,” Richie shrugged and followed her.

The air inside the caverns kept to a steady 70 degrees, and while a bit stick was breathable, which was something to be thankful for. Walking in single file, sometimes bumping into each other as the passageway narrowed to where it barely passable.

Richie wondered why anyone in their right way would choose this barren chunk of asteroid as their final resting place for either their body or their most prized possession. Richie glanced around at the rocky crevices, the jagged stalactites thrust out from the ceiling and aloud he said, “Unless he wasn’t given a choice.”

Gerentex, who brought up the rear of the tiny column, glanced at Richie and scrambled around him to ensure that he did kept in visual contact of both Trance and Harper, given how narrow the passageway was, and where Richie stood, trying to catch his breath, when they collided, sent both sprawling to the floor of the tunnel. Richie’s leather jacket front tore at waist level and the hilt of his 17th century French rapier slid out from underneath, rattled away from him and came to a stop at Gerentex’s feet.
Gerentex recovered first, bending over to pick up the weapon. Richie tried for offended innocence and held out one hand for the weapon to be returned.

“Why are you carrying three inches of steel on your person?” he demanded of Richie.

 

“I’m a collector,” Richie replied.

“Whatever floats your boat, but I’ve told you before Ryan, you are a very peculiar human.” Gerentex left the awkward situation and ran to catch up with the others.

Harper kept walking straight ahead, looking neither right nor left, his head bent in concentration on the open diary that contained the map and missed the entire incident.

**
“I think I found something!” Trance shouted, scrabbling at the face of a rocky wall where with a metal pick with a smooth handle and tines like those of a trident. Light welled from an unknown source, growing brighter by slow increments. The light reached a point where it so bright that it forced everyone in the small group to cover their eyes with their hands and peek through their fingers. Trance dropped the rock pick and reached inside the crack to pull out a battered black leather volume. Richie moved forward so he could get a better look.

He could have sworn he’d seen that particular design on the cover of a book before. A trefoil, and a smaller interior circle surrounded by twelve stones making up a larger circle. It took a few seconds to recall where he’d seen it before when it hit him. ‘Dead ringer for the cover of a Watcher Chronicle.’ he thought to himself.

“About time,” Harper shouted back to Trance.

“Possession is nine tenths of the law, this is a joint venture,” Gerentex snarled, “Whatever we find belongs in part to me, as we agreed.”

“Whatever,” Richie shrugged. He didn’t give a damn what the ferret-faced alien wanted as long as everyone got off this rock in more or less one piece.

“I’m with Ryan,” Harper agreed. “Shall we take a look at what we came all this way to find?” Trance handed the volume to Harper, and cracked open the cover, the leather creaking in protest. The first few pages where blank or covered with illegible script in the Pereseid language.

After all Haustari had been a Pereseid, even if he was considered insane. The following pages contained entries that were mostly covering details of his life right up until the time of his exile. Harper wasn’t interested in those, what they came for were the entries containing specifics on how to navigate to slipstream to the hidden home world of the old Commonwealth, Tarn Vedra. Harper flipped through the pages with some eager anticipation, trying not to damage the diary any more than it already was.

“Here we are, “Harper beamed and handed the volume back to Trance, who held it out so everyone clustered around in the group could get a good look at the coordinates. Trance’s hand covered up a small footnote at the bottom of the page where no one else could see it, a line about containing a single name with an explanatory caption. If she moved her index finger out of the way the name would read: ‘Methos.’

“We have the coordinates,” Gerentex muttered, “Let’s go,” he added making a quick snatch to secure the volume for himself.

Before anyone could track his movements Harper had moved out the circle and was holding twin double-barreled laser blasters on the alien. “Uh, uh, somehow that’s not gonna fly, pal. We’ve gone this far with you, but no one’s taking that information back home except me.”

Richie darted a quick glance at Trance and back to the tableau of the two men facing off with each other and wondered if he should get involved. Trance, with a barely detectable negative shake of her head, told Richie to stay out of it.

“You are out of line, human.” Gerentex bent down and within a half second had come up with a wickedly sharp bone-handled knife.

“Not when I’m the one holding the better weapon.” Harper’s itchy trigger finger put pressure on the firing mechanism. He had never liked the Nightsider and he didn’t like him any better now than I did before.

“Do not be too sure of that. The knife swept low and in and grazed across the exposed skin of Harper’s left wrist, and the gun wavered in its deadly aim level with Gerenetex’s chest.

“I can’t understand what you hope to gain by doing this.”

“We both agreed if this scheme paid off it would make us rich.”

“Never agreed to split the profits.”

“Would you really kill me over a diary.”

“It’s not the diary, it’s what it contains.”

“This isn’t like you, Harper.”

“How do you know that?” Maybe you don’t know me as well as you think/

“Well, if you feel that killing me is the only way to get what you want, go ahead and do it. What are you waiting for?” the other taunted his opponent.

Harper sweated, and it was not just from the humid warm temperature of the cavern. He could feel the moisture of his sweat trickle down his back and make his shirt stick to his back. His knuckles were turning white from how tightly he gripped the laser gun.
**

Aftermath

Trance leaned forward arms folded over her chest a distant look in her eyes. “Stop it! Both of you!” All right, boys, let me put in terms that you’ll understand. Unless you both stop this petty bickering, I will not hesitate to kill you both.”

“What about Dylan?” Harper stammered, his hand with the gun in his sweaty grasp falling limp to his side.

“Dylan, will understand, and I’ll get away with it because I’m cute,” Trance smirked and somehow Harper knew she was not trying to pull his chain, no joke. Trance was being deadly serious.

Admittedly he had only known Trance for about a month and he knew very little about her, but she had effectively put an end to Harper and Gerentex’s wrangling and she hadn’t really done anything. Just a matter of timing and a verbal parry that silence Harper and Richie.

“Let him go, Harper,” Trance added.

“Why?”

“Because,” Trance smiled.

“Because it’s you,” Harper replied, putting his gun back in its holster and with a mortified goofy expression cross his face. “I honestly don’t know what came over me.

Turning his attention back to the nightsider Harper said: “I’m sorry. No hard feelings.”

Gerenetex did not respond in any way, just considered the cracks in the tunnel floor underneath his boots, and looked up. “If I must.” then stalked and walked away back the way they had come. “I expect to be dropped off back at the casino where my ship is docked, from there you may go you way and if I ever see you again, it will be too soon.”

“He apologized.”

“That’s an apology,” Richie gasped.

“For him, it is,” Trance replied.

“Well, he has the right idea,” Richie said. “The sooner we get back to the ship, the better.”

“I assume you mean the Andromeda and not the Maru?”

“Whatever,” Harper replied.

Continued in chapter 4 “Makes You Stronger”

Chapter Text

Disclaimer: Highlander: the Series belongs to Rysher Television. Gaumount/Panzer Davis Productions, and all events, characters, concepts etc belong to them. I am only borrowing for the sake of the story, and as such do not belong to me.
Andromeda is the property of Tribune Entertainment/Fireworks Productions.
Contains spoilers from the Season 1 episode "It Makes a Lovely Light." Follows "Center Cannot Hold, Things Fall Apart."
Prologue

"Took you long enough," Methos' distinctive raspy voiced came through the ship's intercom heavily laced with the amount of alcohol he consumed over the last hour. "Not that it matters to me how long you were on your little good will mission or what you were doing to accomplish it. Hunt's in a bit of a snit."

"How much of one?" Harper asked as soon as he completed a tricky docking maneuver, the Maru's onboard computer system chiming in synch with his verbal and keyed in commands.

He patted the black box sitting on the floor beside the pilot's chair, like he would have patted a pet dog. Inside the case was the diary that once belonged to the mad Pereseid, Hastauri. Harper figured that if he could find the right market and buyer he stood to make quite a bundle, even factoring in the cut he would give to Trance and Richie for having contributed to finding the diary in the first place.

Once they ship had come to a stop, Harper let out the landing ramp and led the way off the Maru. Richie, following Trance down the ramp of the ship, nearly collided with with her when she came to a dead halt. The fine blond hairs on the back of Trance's neck were standing on end, and Richie instinctively felt the short reddish blond hairs on his nape as when the "Buzz' that signaled the presence of another Immortal. 'Damn inconvenient,' he thought in the silence of his own mind. 'Methos' it has to be. We're the only Immortals around, but it does the damn 'Buzz ' have to go off every time we're in each other's vicinity. Can't be any of the other crew members.' The damn Buzz works better than may alarm clock." Richie thought to himself.

 

Methos stood half in and half out of the open entry to the docking bay. Methos stood with arms folded across his chest, clad in the distinctive black uniform, one that matched Dylan's minus a force lance, and draping
in wrinkled creases and fold over his tall but lanky form, where Dylan's was more solidly built.

"Didn't know Dylan sent errand boys to deliver his messages. If he wants to see me, I'll be happy to talk him then." Harper replied, apparently oblivious to the tension in the faces and postures of both Trance and Richie.

"I'm willing to let that slide, boy," Methos replied, a sneer sliding across his lips, "because for one, you're not worth my time, and two, sometimes it's better to serve than be served.

"What the hell is that supposed to mean?" Harper demanded.

"Ryan," Methos called, while the good captain has a little talk with our engineer, you and I need to have a little chat by ourselves."

"Figures," Richie shrugged. "First he declares he doesn't want anything to do with me, sloughs off all responsibility, now, he wants to talk to me. Wish he would make up his mind, for Pete's sake!" Richie shrugged, sharing a knowing glance with Trance as they reached the end of the ramp and followed Methos out of the docking bay into the adjacent corridors.

"I assume you what this is about?" Methos asked, once he was certain no one was within hearing.

"It isn't about how well our 'good-will mission went," Richie replied.

"Don't be obtuse, I don't have time or the patience for it." Methos grabbed Richie by the lapel of black sweatshirt, and darted a glance into the younger Immortal's ice blue eyes meeting his own intent stare for stare.

A lengthy silence followed. Methos was the first to break it. "I don't know what's come over me lately. Maybe it's the alcohol, but it's the worst case of time lapse in history, but we need to talk. Come with me." That said

Methos made an abrupt 180 degree turn with Richie forced to walk at a fast trot to keep up.

Interlude

"The others, they're getting suspicious,' Methos began, taking a seat at the rumpled edge of his bed.

"I don't blame them. We haven't exactly been subtle. And please don't blame the young for making that mistake. I got more than enough of that from Macleod when I first was trying to figure out what this Immortal thing
was about."

"I appreciate that, Ryan," Methos nodded. "It appears Macleod managed to cram a few lessons into that thick head of yours and make them stick."

"Uh, speaking of heads…."

"Relax, Richie," Methos tried on a smile and decided it didn't want and settled the lines of his mobile face back into a scowl. "If I had been interested in taking your head, I would have done so long ago."

"Why do I not feel at all reassured by that?" Richie griped.

"It shouldn't at least, not to the extent that all your guard to slip. We may not be a danger to each other in that respect, but do you have any idea what danger it would be if anyone found out we were Immortal?"

"I can," Richie swallowed a small bit of moisture in his suddenly dry mouth. "And you're right when you said that they are getting suspicious. Trance I think she knows, but we've more or less circled around the issue, and she's agreed to keep what she knows just between us for now.

"You told her?" Methos demanded. "You colossal, dunder-headed fool!" Methos yelled, lurching around the room and throwing pillows and loose clothing about in a frenzy.

"Chill," Richie grinned. "No, we just had a little discussion about, what did you call, about the time jet-lag and we reached an understanding. Well, as much as anyone ever could understand Trance Gemini."

Once he had calmed down, Methos looked at Richie. "All right, just so we understand one other. If Trance knows, then I guess it's all right. We have to trust someone on this ship and it might as well be her. Captain Valentine is my affair and is the Nietchzean."

"Sounds fair." Speaking of Trance, you're going have to face the music sooner or later.

"What do you mean?'

"I mean, Trance has been after me to talk you into to coming to the infirmary for a full medical physical, to the best of Captain Hunt's knowledge, you've got a phobia about doctors and needles, and that's why you've be avoiding it. Trance wants you to come because she's 'concerned' about those electro- magnetic spikes that showed up when we first arrived."

"Electro-magnetic spikes?"

"Yeah, I guess that’s what happens inside us when the healing factor kicks in, except only bigger and brighter when a Quickening happens."

"You've thought this through, said Methos dobut tinged with a grudging respect softening the raspy tones of his voice.

"Occasionally, I am capable of thinking." Richie grinned.

"Very well. One last thing, I doubt the Game will have much in this century and universe. I've been the Andromeda's massive computer database to scan for any events, no matter how obscure they might be to find any recorded data of events similar to the ones about Immortals in our own timeline," Methos said.

Richie took a deep breath. "And did you find anything?"

"No. Some odd things about genetic engineering and Neitzcheans, but that's about it."

"So, I guess it's just us," Richie sighed. "You sound disappointed.

"Looks that way." Methos sighed. "I've spent the great part of the last 2,000 some years trying avoid participating in the Game, and it was only recently that I had to abandon my day job as research Adam Pierson that forced me back in."

"I'd forgotten about that," Richie replied, leaning back in the chair. "Look I'd better go, after Harper and Trance finish their report to Captain Hunt, they'll be looking for me."

"Go, Richie." Methos waved and closed his eyes. Richie took that as he cue to leave and left without a backward glance. "Sucks to be you sometimes, don't it Old Man?"
**
Dylan's surprise birthday party

"I don't particularly care for being summoned to a meeting by people who can't even arrive on time…" Dylan shouted to be heard over the white noise of the ship's engines.

Dylan had to stop in mid-sentence in order to clamber over a stack of abandoned deck-plating that Harper and Richie had disassembled in the process of teaching the young man the finer points of taconite versus titanium components. Somewhere that project had been scrapped in favor of is linear rods.

Dylan shook his head in mock fondness, Harper was a mechanical genius of that Dylan had no doubt, but Harper's particular genius seemed to manifest itself in unorthodox and cynical fits and starts. Richie seemed to have a knack for it and showed himself to be a quick learner, but he had a tendency to give up too soon.

Richie made a bee-line to the table of finger-food and loaded up his plate. Harper glanced at Richie and wondered if he could persuade the young man to help in his covert surveillance of Beka. Harper also felt vaguely resentful that the new crew member could put away an amazing amount of food and never gain an ounce, while Harper, while nowhere a health nut like Beka or even Tyr, could try that and his waistline would suffer.

"Man, how do you manage to do that?" Harper demanded.

"Do what?" Richie asked, puzzled.

"You know, put away all that food?"

"I guess I just have a fast metabolism."

"You might want to spare some for the rest of us, Richie," Beka teased, smiling.

"Oh, sorry." Richie blushed as set down the tray of baked and fried calamari shrimp platter, "I don't like seafood anyways."

"He is approaching. I never signed off on this nonsense, so do not expect to hide and jump out when the man of the hour arrives." Tyr interrupted.

"Tyr, lighten up, "Trance sternly demanded. "It's a party. You're supposed to have fun."

At that instant Dylan came storming through the gauzy fabric that Harper had strung in an effort to create atmosphere. Dylan came through the final barrier, a purple velvet curtain that had been strung up in the manner of the ancient sea mariners stringing up hammocks to serve as sleeping quarters in the cramped conditions of a sailing ship. "All right, enough is enough. Some one had better have a damn good explanation for this!"

"There is," Harper shouted and launched himself forward to grab Dylan's arm and steer him towards. "Gee, there goes the whole surprise part of the celebration." Sorry about keeping you out of the loop, boss, but if we had let you in on the secret it wouldn't have been much of a surprise, right?"

"I suppose," relented Dylan, his irritation with the situation subsiding.

While she tried to smother it, Beka felt much of her careful self-control slip away at the expression on Dylan's face and Beka broke out into a fit of the giggles which had the added bonus of Dylan collapse into a chair. His mouth worked, words bubbled to his mouth the way that condensation was forming on the bottles of chardonnay on the banquet tables. She knew the others were staring at her, but she didn't care. And snagged a bottle of bubbly, uncorked the cap, titled the bottle and poured more than was probably healthy into her mouth.

 

Trance stepped forward relieving Dylan from Harper and politely but forcibly maneuvered Dylan into a chair. "It's time for the gifts." and handed over a velvet covered box with a golden ribbon tied into a flower shape.

Dylan took it and hefted in his hands for a few minutes before sliding the index finger of his left hand around the tie in the bow and unraveling the construction. Once he had lifted the lid of the small box, he removed a wafer thin data floppy. "Thank you, Trance."

"You are welcome," Trance smiled. "Play the data, I'm sure we all will find it most illuminating."

Dylan hand the information floppy to Beka who inserted into the slot on computer interface and instantly in a flare of multicolored lights a stellar grid appeared about equidistant off the floor. Dylan sucked in a breath and for a few heart stopping seconds found himself unable to let it out again.

It wasn't just because he recognized a slipstream coordinate map when he saw one, it was because he instantly recognized the gift that Trance had given home, his past, a way to connect with a bit of what had been lost in the last 300 plus years: a way home. A way to reach the lost home on the Commonwealth, a way to reach Tarn Vedra.

"Do I want to know how old he is today?" Richie asked and received a sharp nudge from Trance's elbow in his lower ribs. "Shush, time is relative, Dylan is 50, give or take the 300 years he spent in frozen in stasis, so I am not sure we should account for that duration of time."

"Gee, you'd think it was some kind of trade secret, you can't blame a guy for asking, Richie complained.

"Hah, we should all look so good when we're 300 plus years," Harper laughed.

"I knew there was a reason I kept him around," Beka smiled, but the tightness of the skin over the bones of her face made it appear more of a grimace of pain.

The icy blue of her eyes gleamed with a feverish luster that Seamus Harper could not recall seen before, not even in the midst of a fierce fire fight in her beloved Eureka Maru. And Beka and he had been together through quite a bit. He knew it would irritate her no end to ask her outright if she was feeling okay.

Beka's pride and her confidence in herself was such that such a question would be taken as an insult, Harper resolved to make polite small talk during the party and then afterwards when he could spare some free time to keep tabs on Beka's movement without letting her catch on to what he was doing.
***
A few days later

"As ever Mr. Harper, your timing is impeccable," Dylan greeted his engineer with a wry remark that conveyed both frustration and a certain dry humor.

Harper shook like a dog shedding water from its coat, recovered his calm expression and anxiously asked: "Do you want my to give a report on the success of the good-will mission?"

"No just yet," Dylan replied, "To borrow an old expression, we have bigger fish to fry.'"

"You should have warned me beforehand, Captain Hunt, I would have brought the cocktail sauce," Tyr remarked.

"Find something humorous in that Tyr?" Dylan said.

"No, Sir," Tyr replied an expression of stoic attentive on his dusky black-skinned face, a twist of lips that could be mistaken for a smile and tilt of his head as he exchanged a glance with Beka. Dylan wondered, not for the first time, if Tyr put on expressions like the actors of the ancient Greek dramas and tragedies exchanged masks to fit the circumstances.

On the heels of that thought, Dylan wondered if allowing a Nietchezan to become part of his crew again would come back to burn him after what had befallen himself and his former second in command, Gaheris Rade's betrayal. 'Keep your friends close, keep your friends closer,'" Dylan thought to himself.

"As you may or may not be aware, we've been more successful in acquiring new signatories to the New commonwealth charter than anyone including myself ever anticipated."

Tyr, please, no comments from the peanut gallery," Beka interrupted," Nobody wants to hear the comments of the resident pessimist."

"Thank you, Beka. "As I was saying, we've been assigned escort duty for a commonwealth convoy enroute to Tarn Vedra with its point of origin."

The ship's android avatar arrived and with a gesture brought up a holographic representation of the spatial territory that they would need to cover to complete the journey from Point A to point B.

"Do you have any idea how difficult it will be to navigate through slip-stream. There are any number of ways that something could go wrong," Harper said, referring to the stellar map and the brilliant pinpoints of colored light that indicated routes, planets and individual territory that was either belonged to the Nizetecheans, non-aligned worlds, or where simply unknowns.

"I just fix and build things, but I know enough about quantum physics, navigation and piloting through the slipstream that it will take a damn good pilot to get through all of that!"

"I assume you have someone in mind?" Tyr said. "Let us leave aside the valid point of the resident little professor, and the foolishness of trying to find something that no one has been able to find for the last three hundred years, there is a fine line between determination and stubbornness. Let it go, Dylan."

 

"No, I will not 'let it go," Dylan replied. "And to answer your earlier question, Captain Valentine has been chosen to lead the convoy."

"Me!" Beka exclaimed.

"You're the best pilot we have, and she will be spear-heading the convoy."

"Well, I am good, but the best… I don't know about that."

"I'll be contacting the commanders of the other vessels that will need to be informed to organize the convoy and then finalize with them the rendezvous point. Mr. Harper we'll need you to construct a sub-space communications buoy and then an appropriate means of launching into in space. Everyone, get to work. Rommie, you're with me."
Interlude

Meanwhile Methos sat on the edge of the metal exam table in the infirmary holding the separate halves of a medical gown over his chest. His feet were bare and a cotton tourniquet had been slapped over the vein in his left arm where Trance had extracted a little of his blood. Methos detested doctors of schools, stripes on principle. He always had and suspected he always would. That was one thing that had not changed no matter how bizarre the circumstances in which he found himself in.

Methos darted suspicious glances around the gleaming metal room, glaring at the aperture where the voice of the ship's computer blared out in a mellow famine voice confirmed in a droll monotone the results and inquires that Trance made of it.

"The initial results of the blood work indicates that your genetic material is remarkably similar to that of the original Nietzchean settlers."

"Perhaps we should inform Tyr." Trance whispered, her tail coiling around her body.

"And what then, tell him he has a long-lost distant relative from the 21st century," Methos groaned. I have poked, prodded and probed by you, woman. I have reached the limit of the indignity I will endure."

"It is standard ship protocol that all members of the crew, including senior officers submit to a regular physical checkup. That includes you, Methos." Trance replied, outwardly calm and unmoved by Methos' verbal outpouring.

"Whatever happened to doctor/patient confidentiality," Methos asked when he calmed down enough.

"That is still observed, but you must understand that part of my duties as acting chief medical officer is to inform the captain of all potential security risks or physical anomalies on the part of any member of the crew."

"I really can't talk you out of this can I?"

 

"Methos, official duty aside, I fail to understand why you seem so over-protective of this regenerative ability of yours, I understand your need to keep a secret and I respect that, but it seems somewhat compulsive from where I stand."

"Why do you begrudge my secrets when you so plainly have secrets of your own."

"Touche," Trance nodded, "Fair enough, but you are evading the question. Rest assured I will get the secret out of you one way or the other."

"That sounds like a threat."

"Does it?" Trance tilted her head to one side thinking the matter through. Her violet hued eyes gl reflected the light from the overhead lamps. "I apologize if it came across as a threat, I merely feel that this is something that Dylan should know about."

"What he doesn't know won't hurt him."

"It would best if it came from you," Trance replied. "As it stands right now, you're free to go."

"Hurry up and wait, time is all we've got," Methos muttered on his way out of the infirmary. "Got any beer?"

"No," Trance replied. "Regenerative abilities or not, I am concerned about the amount alcohol you've been drinking, it could live to health problems such as liver poisoning."

"Let me worry about that," Methos replied and disappeared down the outside corridors while Trance stood in the doorway watching him leave until he turned a corner and disappeared from a view.

Confrontation

Rev Bem strode the empty ship corridors, his head drooping until it almost rested on his chest. His monk's robes draping him from head to foot and the dim lighting turning the dark red to a sepia brown. It was not his own troubles and concerns that caused him to leave his quarters during the ship's night time hours; but worry over a crew mate's problems. 'Admit it to yourself, Rev, you are worried about Captain Valentine. You have known her longer than anyone, even Harper, and her behavior is more than mere stress could warrant. You have no proof, you have never had to question her orders, or how she conducts her life. But signs do not bode well. Then what should a good friend do? Tell Dylan, talk to Beka? Say nothing and hope she resolves this situation for herself?'

Rev Bem looked up, distracted out of his gloomy thoughts when he realized that he stood in front of the door that belonged to the object of his thoughts. While he had been preoccupied his feet had guided him to her quarters. Now a choice met, go in and talk to her or go away. "Beka? Rev said, knocking a on her door.

 

"Go. Away!" Beka shouted.

"That I will certainly not do. Do you require assistance?"

"No. Yes. Rev?" Oh, Hell. Since you're there you might as well come in."

"It is dark in here, should I order the ship to increase the illumination?

"No, I like the dark. It soothing and comforting. It means that I don't have to get headaches from the brightness of the light.

"Beka, talk to me. I am worried about you." Rev stepped across the room the carpet beneath his sandaled feet absorbing the sounds he made. He could sense rather than see where Beka was huddled, sprawled on the floor, his arms bare to the shoulder and her torso covered in loose black and silver mesh shirt.
He knelt down beside her and was felt sadness more than anger when his unspoken fears were confirmed when the eye droplet containing the drug known as Flash. He picked up the eye dropper and the metal syringe that had been thrown into a corner by her rumpled unmade bed. "Tell me the truth,' Rev Bem demanded, his outward calm disappearing in his anger and fear for his friend, "Have you been taking Flash!"

"Yes. What of it! I'm a big girl, Rev. I can take care of myself. It's not like I'm addicted to the stuff. I need the rush, I need the extra adrenaline especially if Dylan expects to guide the convoy through slipstream. I'm the best. I'm the only one who can do it."

"Beka, do you have any idea how dangerous this is to your mind and body?"

"Of course it do. "Beka suddenly sobbed her whole body shaking with a sudden spate of the chills. "You know, Rev. It's funny. I'm always all the one who is expected to have it all together. I'm the strong one. The one everyone looks to have a plan and to know just what to do, and now I fell like I'm falling apart into a thousand pieces."

"What can I do to help?"

"Be my friend, Rev," Beka whispered.

Rev Bem hurled the hated metal tools as far as he could and held her trembling hands in his own. "To death and beyond, Beka."

"Thanks, I mean that. Leave me, now. I'll be okay. "Beka managed a shaky smile and got up to run a comb through her tangled blonde curls.

Rev Bem did not say anything just left her to compose herself and went back out into the hallway with much to think about.

Interlude

Tyr's expression and stance was of a highly suspicious old soldier forced to put up with a boring and unnecessary inspection by the brass. Inspection; 'That's hardly surprising that he would be alert for any and all
eventualities and some that I can't even imagine,' Beka thought to herself.

Blinking in the harsh light of the command deck, a marked contrast from the dimness of her quarters, Beka took the seat in the pilot's chair once Tyr vacated it. Mentally running through her pre-flight check list helped her focus on what needed to done and stave off attack of the jitters and the uncommonly loud pinging noises in the back of her head.

'I've had and endured hangovers that did not feel anywhere as bad as this, hell, when it's said the high is great but the crash and burn is worse, they weren't kidding. Concentrate, kiddo. Dylan, plus a few thousand ships captains and their crews are counting on you." These thoughts circled around in her head and chased the other darker thoughts of the drug Flash coursing their her blood stream.

The fine blonde hairs at the nape of her neck tingling with tension. Beka finished her pre-flight task, double checked the coordinates on her display screen and sent all ships message via sub space that she was ready to go, confirmation was short to follow.

Beka felt both the ship and her entire body leap forward when the ship entered the first window in the slip stream, rocking the ship in a giant cradle of energy. That energy allowed faster than light travel to points almost
everywhere in the galaxy no matter how far distant they were from each other.

Glancing at the galactic map displayed on navigational computer monitor, Beka kept counting down all the coordinates necessary to reach, hoping that the buoy and the device that Harper had rigged to make sure the other ships of the line were following the trail of breadcrumbs were still following, and all still in one piece.

Distantly, as if he were shouting from across a cavernous room, or from very far away, she could hear Dylan suggesting, then ordering, then pleading with her to take a break, to hit each dot along the slipstream without resting herself and the ship.

Beka wanted to punch something, but her hands gripping the helm controls were frozen in place. Beka didn't feel like something about from the ship at this point, just something that existed for the sole purpose of giving the High Guard ship direction, commands, and making sure they all reached their destination.

Aftermath

"You did good, kiddo." Dylan smiled and assisted to get to a sitting position on the exam table.

Beka shook her, the buzzing sensation in the back of her head subsiding at last. "Did we make it?" And cursed herself for slurring the words. Her mouth tasted like something had crawled in and died. She spit out a gobbet of saliva and accepted the glass of water that Trance, who stood nearby, handed to over. "Drink it. It will make you feel better."

"I hope so, I can't imagine feeling any worse than I do now."

"Under normal circumstances with your condition, but frankly I'm torn being angry with you and impressed. Right now the anger is taking precedence."

"Okay, okay, I get it."

"You did lie to your friends about taking Flash," Trance added.

"And you while under said drug's influence you pulled a gun on your fellow officers and your commanding officer." Dylan said.

"I thought I had it under control, I never stopped to think it would control me."

"It's a reason, but I'll take what I can get."

"Beka, you had us all scared. Promise me, you will never do anything like that again," Trance asked holding a medical scanner over her patient and inputting the data into Beka's chart. "Promise." Beka replied, turning her head to where Dylan stood at the side of her exam table. "Wait, did you say you were impressed?"

"I did. I didn't think anyone could successfully navigate through as many slip stream jumps as you just did." Dylan shook his head in mingled admiration and awe. "You emerge from that experience nothing worse for wear than a severe head ache and passing out from sheer exhaustion."

"I passed out?"

"Yes," Dylan grinned. "Tyr actually had to cut you out of your belt harness, extract you from the chair and carry you to the infirmary. I certainly did not to get in his way when that happened."

"I think," Beka said, slowly and distinctly, that when Trance releases from this place I shall need to have a chat with our Nietchzean friend. I don't like being treated like a cargo being loaded onto a freight transporter."

"Now I know you're feeling better." Trance laughed. "Give her time to rest and recover, Dylan. I'm make sure that she stays put until she's ready to return to active duty."

"Keep me informed," Dylan replied, "Do want the doctor tells you, Beka. I'll be on the command deck."

Chapter Text

Disclaimer: Andromeda belongs to Tribune Entertainment and Fireworks Productions, as do all related characters, concepts and events. The story takes place around the time of the events show in the 2nd season episode "Lava and Rockets"
Note: The story picks up from where "Makes You Stronger" left off.

 

"Dead Men Walking" by Karen

Richie Ryan had mixed feelings about his placement in the command structure of the ship. Okay, so going by outward appearances alone he looked to be somewhere in his mid-twenties.

However, by Immortal standards with the additional complication that he was now stuck hundreds of years in the future, did present a few considerable drawbacks. Like now.

Except for Harper, everyone else, but mostly Tyr and Beka, seemed to think that he was some wet behind the ears rookie who needed to be watched over and protected. 'Beka Valentine. Now there was a woman!" Richie thought with some exuberance, "Too bad about that 'kid brother' treatment that she has towards Harper and myself.'
Richie felt that he had outgrown that during the time he lived off and on with his old mentor, Duncan Macleod. After months spent aboard the Andromeda Ascendant he certainly no longer needed to be treated in that way.

Centuries ahead of his own time was enough to give anyone a case of time lag, it just made his head hurt to think about it too much.

Yet, here was, flat on his stomach welding deck plates and running maintenance checks. "So I'm aboard this universe's largest, fastest and most sought after starship, and I'm still just a glorified grease monkey. I really need to get a new travel agent. I mean, hell, what was my last travel agent but a glorified grease monkey. Damn you. Mason."
Richie adjusted his weight to relieve the cramp in his legs from being in one position too long, and bumped his head on the overhead archway. 'Damn."

"Did you say something?" Harper yelled from the far side of the engineering bay.

"No, just muttering to myself,' Richie replied, after a moment of thought," Did you say the grid of the ion glide drives was in here?"

"Yeah, just hang on a sec while put the finishing touches on this baby," Harper said.

The shorter man came over as Richie slithered out of the maintenance tube so that Harper could get inside to look at the ion grid. While he was doing that Richie took the chance to get the circulation going by doing some quiet stretching motions. Harper finished his inspection and backed out again. "The grid's in there all right, it's just a teensy bit fried, so what I want you to do is reroute the power from one of the subroutines and reboot it."

"Got it," Richie replied

***
Inside Machine Shop Three

"I don't trust you. I never have." Tyr greeted Methos, the door sliding shut on its gimbaled hinges, Methos almost missed the effect of old fashioned door slamming to, and it would match the glare that Tyr leveled directly at him.

"Well, bully for you. I warned you that you shouldn't trust me. You'd think it would penetrate that thick head of yours. Funny, isn't it, how I always seem to end up tagging along on the coat heels of the boy-scout types." Methos shook his head, thinking the matter through. "You know what they say, the more things, the more they stay the same. I must be cursed, or something."

"I do hope you are not including me in that category." Tyr allowed a small smile to slip out, amused and annoyed by the smaller man.

"Heaven forbid," Methos sneered. "Don't take this the wrong way, but I've been around you blokes long enough to realize one thing, and that's you are very much like me. Looking out for number one."

"A survivor. I have mentioned this to Dylan on several occasions, but when the universe comes to an end, there will be three survivors, cockroaches, Tyr Anazazi, and Dylan Hunt trying to save the cockroaches."

"I prefer to think of the survival rate a little bit on the higher scale for my species, thanks anyway." Methos sneered. "I am getting the distinct feeling that you are not here to compare notes on survivor outlooks.

"No."

"Then why are you here?"

"I was about to ask you the same thing. This section of the ship is off limits."

"Never stopped me before."

"Are you always this annoying and sardonic?"

"Yeah, it keeps people at arms- length."

"What's in here is my personal property, and I am not fond of you getting your hands on it."

"Is that a threat?"

"Yes." Tyr sauntered forward much in the manner of a black panther stalking prey in the jungle, his bone blades embedded into his forearms out end extended, arms folded in such as a way as to provide maximum room for maneuverability.

"The fact that you are here, precludes my asking your knowledge of the contents."

"Curiosity killed the cat." Methos tried for glib response, until he came up with something better to say or a way to get rid of the obstacle in his path. Dealing with Tyr was much akin to dealing with oncoming traffic during rush hour in a large metropolitan city. This particular obstacle, dread-locks and all, possessed a dangerous ability to see through Methos' act. Not to mention he already did some considerable background checking. Methos was in the business of survival, and Tyr could conceivable prove to be a threat.

"I can arrange that." Tyr smoothly replied.

"I bet you could," Methos remarked.

"Speaking out of curiosity," Tyr remarked, "Cut the macho bullshit, and let's discuss something else. Like you for example. I've had my eye on you ever since your rather inexplicable arrival."

"What's there to say," Methos shrugged. "What you see is what you get."

"I have observed your interaction with the young man, Ryan, and observed your, let us be realist; aloof, arrogant, and somewhat patronizing ways of dealing with people. "

"Oh, this should be good."
The thing that struck me the most was your ability to camouflage yourself."

"What do you mean?"

"I mean, if I did not know any better, I would say you are very much a chameleon, analyzing the parameters of the given environment, situation, and particulars and changing to fit those parameters. It's how you survive."

"Well, I'll be damned. Someone finally figured me out."

"I would not be so flippant if were you," Tyr rumbled. "It's not all I've learned. I took bits and pieces, clues and put them together. Item, you appear out of nowhere; you have no records in any of the computer databases."

"Is that so strange? I mean after 300 years do you really expect to have accurate databases of everyone in the galaxy. It's a big galaxy."

Tyr ignored the deliberate attempt at distraction and continued to list off his findings. "Item 3: Trance's required medical exam showed elevated amounts of electro-magnetic activity in the hippo campus region of your brain, as well as Mr. Ryan’s.

"So?" Methos fidgeted; eager to find a way to get rid of Tyr so that he could get a peek inside the glass enclosed box. From his rifling through the Andromeda's ships' logs had put two and two together and the evidence was coming to one conclusion. Ryan and Pierson were not entirely human.

Tyr had gone to considerable lengths to secure the remains of his pride's biological ancestor, and in fact, would kill to make sure that those remains stayed in his possession. Anything that valuable was worth looking into.

In addition, one could only drink so much alcohol in a stretch of time before needing something else to occupy one's attention. Based on the fragments of the diary that he had been able to download into his personal terminal from the diary of the Mad Peresied, Hastuari, which referenced his name, and the Watchers Chronicles, had prompted Methos to act and seek out the remains of the Nietchzeian progenitor, Drago Kazov.

"So, such concentrated activity is not normal in the brain of a human being."

"Can I look in the box?" Methos interrupted, deliberately ignoring the warning in Tyr's last statement.

"So, I believe that you are capable of putting the pieces together as well as I. That is the true reason that led you here." Tyr walked over, grabbed a handful of the man's loose shirt and thrust him away were the man fetched up against the opposite wall. "No, you may not look in the box. A little focus, please."

"What's in the box?" Methos interrupted, stalling for time, believing that he understood the implied meaning underlying the big man's words. 'Could he really have discovered that he's got not one but two Immortals on board?' This thought flashed through Methos' head like a bolt from a summer lighting storm and on the heels of that thought:

"Okay, let's assume for the sake of argument that he's learned about Immortals, I can't afford to trust him, and he can’t afford to trust me." How can I turn this situation to my advantage?' Aloud he said: "Okay, out with it?
What do you want?"

"The truth, or as much as skewed pieces of it as you can manage."

"This is gonna take a while, and talking is such thirsty work," Methos grinned.

"Hey, do you think we could go somewhere and you could buy a few beers or a whole 12 pack?"

Elsewhere

"We've been at this for hours," Richie griped, sifting the black dirt of Trance's garden through his fingers studying how the dirt caked beneath his nails while Trance's were still as smooth and even as when they had begun the project. The shape and design of the planets reminded Richie of the bonzai trees that Tessa used to decorate his old mentor's Duncan Macleod's river barge. Funny how random, somewhat useful memories get dredged up when your body is occupied with other less pressing tasks, Richie muttered.

"While gardening and pruning may not be high on your list of fun things to do, Richie," Trance paused and flashed him a brilliant smile; "I assure you this is a method behind my perceived madness."

"Knowing you, Trance, by the time you come out with it, I probably wouldn’t understand it anyway."

"I think you over estimate me and don't give yourself enough credit, Richie. In the short time you've been a crew member, you've made excellent progress."

"Well, thanks for the vote of confidence, but I don't see how learning to garden is going to help."

"It's more than just a hobby, it's a metaphor."

"Okay, okay, I see it’s useless to argue with you or try to change the subject, so I'll bite. Tell me. Oh wise one."

"Richie, sometimes I feel that you do occasionally display a flash of brilliance beyond your years."

"It's about the Immortal business, isn't it?" Richie grinned. "I don't think it's any of my doing, but I appreciate the compliment anyway."

"Immortals, ah yes, this is more about you than your compatriot, Methos, he worries me. And he name did appear in the writings of the mad Perseid's diary."

"Hey, Trance, don't sweat it, Methos worries everybody. Did you know, that back home there a secret society that had an entire archive dedicated to keep tabs on his life."

"I think you know something about that you are being circumspect about.

"Don’t you ever come right out and say exactly what you mean?"

"If I did, it would take away all of the mystery." Trance grinned, came over from her stool placed up against the far wall and came to sit on the floor next to Richie. "Seriously, though, I think my best friends, and I like to count you among that number, Mr. Ryan, is that it's all about recreating oneself. I did take them a long time to be accustomed to the new golden older version of the Trance they knew and were comfortable with."

"A bit of shock, I have to admit." Besides on the recreating oneself, Methos could tell you stories, hell, he could probably spin an epic. That isn’t what you really wanted to talk about it, huh?"

"No, but it does lead into what I do have to say."

"So go for it."

"My race is an old one, and there is still much I do not understand about my people, have I told you that we possess the ability to see into all possible, potential futures.
The problem is that I never can see that one perfect future clearly enough to predict the outcome of our actions."

"You make mistakes, Trance. And besides if everyone could see the future nothing would ever get done to make it happen."

"You and I are the only ones with the exception of Methos who are aware of the existence of Immortals."

"Tyr is getting rather suspicious of late, Richie shrugged figuring that it was only a matter of time before the secret would get out. Even aboard a ship easily ten times the size of his hometown of Seacouver, Seattle, and with a small crew complement, and have dealt with someone as sharp and insightful as Trance, Richie knew that it was the kind of secret he could hide indefinitely. And among the entire crew, if anyone could handle and be trusted with the secret it would have to be Trance.
I doubt that when Dylan, Beka and the others do find out," and I Methos and I agreed. Well, you know how he is, we're not about to decapitate each other."

"Hey, Trance," Richie paused thinking the matter over, "You know I've been operating under the assumption that we're the only ones around, but how do we know that for sure. I mean, for a while back on my Earth, it seems Immortals kept coming out of the woodwork, and then it started drying up."

"If I understand the set of Rules governing Immortals, it is necessary for one your kind to fight another for some nebulous "Prize', correct?"

"Yeah, but Methos already made it pretty clear he isn't interested in taking my head, and considering he is already pretty much a living legend, I'm grateful. I really, really, do not want to fight the guy."

"How old is he supposed to be again?"

"Give or take a decade, he's 5,000 years old."

Trance let out her in held breath in a soft whistle. "Rather impressive." It's best to leave our Neitzchean friend, Tyr in the dark, he would be very envious if he found out. He prides himself on being genetically bred to be the ultimate survivor."

"Yeah. I noticed that, too." Richie grinned. "Although, I hate to admit this, but I'd like to see the expression on his face when he finds out that Methos beat him to the punch centuries before he was a glimmer in his Ma's eye."
Interlude

The tent walls tremble in the chilly night wind, but neither Tyr nor his chosen mate, Freya, feels it. It might be due to their enhanced systems, or might be the heat of their passion. With the acclaim of the assembled Pride,

Tyr will beget himself a son. The woman is everything that he could ever have hoped for. Strong, bright, and fierce.

The bracelets symbolize their union fall from their bindings around their upper forearms and clatter when they hit the floor. Tyr doesn't care and neither does Freya. While Tyr is well aware of the value of a symbol, it is after all, just a material object. It is the deeds that matter.

When it is over Freya stands up and holds up the blue and the red vials, the smile on her face both one of triumph and wonder. "We will have a son," she says. "Although I must tell you something, not all within the pride are anxious for you to become the leader. Factions are forming that will oppose you. Also, this is mere rumor, but I heard it whispered that another could well claim to have bloodlines that predate the Progenitor."

"What are you talking about, woman?" Tyr demanded.

"I have already said too much. I must go." Freya left, and Tyr puzzled over her parting words.
****
Germany WWII era, Nazi meeting hall

The atmosphere of the meeting hall is close and tense and that isn't from the leader's sense of danger all around, danger perhaps exclusively with him as the target. In time of war, it more than common sense to take precautions, it was becoming a matter of survival. The meeting room was packed, the majority of the attendees clad in the brown uniforms, knee high army boots, and caps issued by their individual unit commanders. Only a handful sported brightly clashing medals and buttons on the lapels of their coats, or tight-fitting caps upon their heads.

Facing the neatly lined up rows of metal folding chairs so that all the seats faced towards a carefully constructed wooden platform and it's a recent addition to the meeting hall, one built for a purpose.

Tonight the Leader was scheduled to announce a break through in military science by one of the most brilliant minds their home country had ever produced.

Trying to fade into the background, just another face in the crowd, the man called Adam Pierson raises a hand to the brim of his cap and pulls it down lower so that it shadows his blue eyes. He doesn't know exactly what the science boys had in mind when they said they'd made in breakthrough discovery on just what makes the Ayran race superior to all others. On top of that they had also discovered a way to isolate that particular genome and duplicate it, so he felt compelled to be there for the meeting.
***

 

Encounter (present Day)

In the absence of Captain Dylan Hunt, Beka Valentine or even Tyr, they had chosen to give Harper command of the Andromeda. That, in theory, is not a completely far-fetched concept. It made sense from a command structure standpoint because, Harper, aside from the ship's avatar and Captain Hunt, was the only person aboard who knew the inner workings and systems of the ship inside and out.

The scary part of the idea of Harper being in charge was well, Harper himself. Given who he was and seemingly driven by a need to push the envelope and take chances, Harper tended to fly off the handle when challenged by an opponent.

It could be on an individual basis, or facing the business end of a bunch of very angry Nietchzians warships from Drago Katsov Pride allied with the Jaguar Pride.

"Well, one doesn't need a degree in quantum physics to figure that one out; Bad things will happen."

Richie shrugged and kept his finger pressing down on the firing mechanism, staring at the screen with the little colored blips. 'And here I thought I'd make a great fighter pilot. This is much harder than a 21st century fighter jet. Okay, so they were computer game simulations.'

Trance stood alongside of Richie, scanning the rapidly changing readouts at his control console. Preferably one of the rapidly darting blips on his console without endangering the Andromeda itself.

Riche muttered under his breath, staring dagger puncture holes into Harper's back. "Do something command-like already, would you, Harper, before we all die of suspense or laserfire, whichever comes first."

"Hey, I'm thinking of plan here, okay?"

"No pressure, or anything, but could you think a little faster," Richie muttered.

"You can't outrun Death forever," Harper whispered, "but you can make the bastard work for it. Come on, you gutless wonders!"
Richie sighed, "It's official, we're in the hands of a madman."

Conclusion

"Methos is no longer aboard the ship," Richie stated with the air of someone that has long predicted this event and was not believed. "You know, if you had listened to me earlier when I told you this might happen, we might not be shy one slip fighter now."

"Well, he's never been that reliable a member of the crew," Beka replied. "We can always manage with one less slip fighter. Besides where would he go?"

 

"I haven't the foggiest, Beka," Richie answered. "But I had Rommie input the course and speed from the flight plan he filed before he left. You know, it might just be the time lag, or the fact that we're not used to be in this time frame, but it's not like him to leave a trail."

"He left a flight plan?" Dylan asked.

"Yeah, but you'd have to ask Rommie about the exact coordinates, because frankly I don't remember the details." Richie scratched the light blond fuzz on his lower jaw, "I always wondered what Methos was up to, and why he ended up here, I mean, the guy's been around for a long time."

"I get the feeling that there's more to this Methos, excuse, what was the other name he went by." Beka said. "Oh right, Adam Pierson, than you're telling us. I think it’s about time you told us everything, Richie."

"Yeah, but he took that special one that Tyr had his eye on," Richie said.

"Everything," Richie swallowed a sudden dry taste in his mouth. "Well, we all know we're both from an alternate reality timeline, I guess we don't need to go over that again. And we're both from a place called Seacouver, Washington."

"And," Tyr prompted mildly.

"And, look this is difficult enough to explain, even without the additional complication of Adam, damn, Methos, or whatever you want to call him. We discussed this and we both agreed it was best to keep you guys out of it."

"Out of what?" Dylan asked, curious.

"You know what, I've seen my teacher do this most of times when he got backed into a corner and had to 'fess up, so it might just be easier to show you. Trance already knows about the Big Secret, so I guess it's okay to tell them right?"

"It is your call, Richie, but we did agree to tell them when the time was right," Trance replied.

"Yeah, I guess we did." Richie sighed, reaching down to select from a variety of tools that were strapped into his tool belt. "Look, don't get too crazy or freaked out, this is the weird part."

"Weird part?" Beka echoed with the air of someone who could guess what was coming but a part of her wanted to be proved right, and another part wanted to be proved wrong. She liked Richie; he was like the kid brother that Harper or even her own family could never be.

"Okay, here goes nothing," Richie sighed. He rolled up the sleeve of his work shirt exposing the bare skin of his lower left arm, then unsealed the cutting edge of the tool and cut into the exposed skin. A tiny growing dribble of red very human looking blood seeped from the cut.

 

He grinned, "Okay, watch." Putting the tool back into the belt pouch he held out his arm at full extension, small white electrical sparks playing about the incision in his skin, and in front of the eyes of the watching crew the wound sealed up. It left hardly anything behind except for a tiny white scar. "All gone, see?"

"Yes, I see, how did you manage to do that?" Tyr asked.

"Because Methos and I are alike. We're what's called Immortals on our world." Richie sighed. "It's a very long story."

"Trance, nothing like this ever came up in their medical diagnostics?

Trance regarded Dylan, "Well, yes, I detected some highly unusual levels of endorphins, white blood cells and electromagnetic activity and enhanced immune system, but nothing out of the ordinary, and I promised Richie I wouldn't say anything until we both agreed the time was right."

"Well, you could have knocked me over with a feather." Dylan shrugged.

"You are not overly concerned that his, how did you put it when Tyr was aboard, Extra-curricular activities might prove dangerous or perhaps counter-productive to our continued well-being?" Rommie asked.

"I hate to admit it, but I don’t count his desertion as drain of the crew's resources. He seemed rather self-absorbed to me and a bit on the arrogant side. When he decided to jump ship, and he probably didn't even stop to consider he'd been leaving Mr. Ryan behind."

"Are you going to do anything about it?" Richie demanded.

"Not unless he causes trouble elsewhere." Dylan grinned.

"You don't know Methos like I do, hell I don't think anybody knows Methos as well as. This would be a really good time to go Joe Dawson and get the full scoop." Look, this is probably not a good idea, and I must be insane for even mentioning this, but you have to understand something about Methos, the uy's been around since the original Dark Ages. All I'm saying is that he's trouble on two legs."

"Are you saying," Tyr interrupted "if you'll pardon my waxing melodramatic, ‘ Tyr asked, "That he's not good enough for heaven, and hell is afraid that he will take over?"

"Yeah, that's about the size of it." Richie muttered. "You'd think it would get easier as you go along, but it never does."

"Relax, Mr. Ryan, your secret is safe with us," Dylan tried to soothed the frayed nerves of the young man. In the back of his mind, Immortals although I wonder where I rank, as how did Tyr put it, an historical anachronism, fate or whatever deity is watching our struggles must be getting a good hard chuckle out of this one. Aloud he said, "Richie, with any luck this desertion of Methos is probably not as bad as you're making it out to be. In the meantime, we'll deal with one crisis at a time. Okay."

"Okay. Okay. I understand, and thank you, sir." Richie grinned.