Gene Roddenberry's Andromeda: Waystation by Steven E. McDonald, Tribune Entertainment Staff |, NOOK Book (eBook) | Barnes & Noble
Gene Roddenberry's Andromeda: Waystation

Gene Roddenberry's Andromeda: Waystation

by Steven E. McDonald
     
 

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The Andromeda Ascendant is the last surviving ship of the long-dead Systems Commonwealth interstellar empire. It's captain, Dylan Hunt, with the crew of the Eureka Maru, has been trying to contact outlying planets who might rejoin the revived Commonwealth. But one such planet responds to the Andromeda's friendly advances with an all-out attack that cripples the

Overview

The Andromeda Ascendant is the last surviving ship of the long-dead Systems Commonwealth interstellar empire. It's captain, Dylan Hunt, with the crew of the Eureka Maru, has been trying to contact outlying planets who might rejoin the revived Commonwealth. But one such planet responds to the Andromeda's friendly advances with an all-out attack that cripples the Andromeda. Fleeing on the limited power that the ship can muster, Hunt, Beka Valentine and the rest of the crew seek a resupply depot, but none is near enough for them to reach before repairs, except for an abandoned station, uninhabited since the collapse of the empire.

When Hunt, systems analyst Seamus Harper, and Andromeda's AI Rommie get into the station, they find it's not quite uninhabited. Strange presences assail them. Something very dark, evil, and entirely unknown. And while they try to get what they need without being killed by whatever is lurking on the station, something is attacking the Andromeda itself. There's plenty of action and suspense before this routine resupply mission can be finished . . . if it can be finished.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Set in a complicated universe full of difficult challenges, screenwriter McDonald's franchise tie-in with the popular TV show is sure to please its target audience. Long after the Systems Commonwealth was destroyed, the captain of its one surviving starship, the Andromeda Ascendant, has assembled a motley crew and is trying to rebuild a benevolent civilization. As Star Trek demonstrates, Roddenberry understood the recipe for TV series storytelling: put some quirky characters in a container, then stir once a week and watch what happens. Though everyone in the cast gets time for distinctive shtick, this novel concentrates on two featured performers. One of the strangest crew members is Trance Gemini, a cute but not-quite-human being who jaunts back and forth through time as she tries to keep her comrades from making disastrous errors; this becomes quite confusing when multiple versions of Trance from different time lines are scurrying through the ship. Stalwart Captain Dylan Hunt, meanwhile, has to temper his idealism as he encounters new puzzles-and reconsiders some of the old Commonwealth's immoral behavior. The author weaves the plot threads together ingeniously, but even though new readers can figure out what's going on, they may wonder why these people and their problems are worth caring about. (July 6) FYI: McDonald is the author of the novel The Janus Syndrome (1981). Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781429977708
Publisher:
Tom Doherty Associates
Publication date:
04/01/2007
Series:
Gene Roddenberry's Andromeda , #3
Sold by:
Macmillan
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
272
File size:
1 MB

Read an Excerpt


ONE ? BROAD HINTS AND DEEP MYSTERIES


Never shake hands with a razorpig.
--INFORMAL HIGH GUARD MOTTO, CIRCA CY 5000

Nothing was clear. That scared her, as much as she could be scared.
Her name was Trance Gemini, at least for now. Her skin was gold, shading to pink in some areas, and her long red hair was caught into tight braids, some of which were woven into an ornate design that offset her sharply pointed ears. Depending upon mood or need, her face could seem soft and caring, or become a mask of cold determination. Even her shipmates, long used to her mercurial state, had no hope of predicting what she would do, say, or manifest next.
She was watching the stars, looking for the lines of force, and trying to divine individual characteristics. She was standing on the huge observation deck of the Andromeda Ascendant, a former Systems Commonwealth High Guard starship that was the epitome of the iron fist in the velvet glove--her outward beauty, composed in the main of curves with only a handful of straight lines, concealed an ability to destroy entire star systems. Prior to the fall of the old Commonwealth, the 1.4-kilometer-long Andromeda Ascendant had carried a complement of forty-seven hundred. Now it was occupied by only a handful of people. Trance had left her mark on the ship, however--the hydroponics gardens had flourished in her hands, and she had placed plants all over the ship. Andromeda was extremely pleased.
She was Trance Gemini. Once upon a time she had been younger, purple, and equipped with a prehensile tail. All those things were gone. Her tail, always a useful tool, had been shot away in a firefight. Her younger self had gone forward in time, and she had come backward to replace her, and temporal paradoxes be damned. She had come back from a terrible future, a time that had claimed all too many of the people she had known, as well as an increasing chunk of the universe.
She had said, time and again, that her agenda was to create the perfect possible future. Yet she had arrived amid chaos in a place where time was out of joint and almost limitless quantum possibilities radiated into the future. Faced with too many choices, she had narrowed them to one. In that instant she had locked down one reality, condemned a brilliant Perseid scientist to the fate he had already suffered, and saved a human she cared about from a horrible death.
She had made the choice out of friendship, for better or worse. She had easily admitted that later. She had also admitted that she had no idea as to the long-term consequences of her actions. It was almost the complete truth at the time. Within seconds she had felt her memory starting to blur and shift, leaving her feeling as though she were looking at her own existence through smoked glass.
It was not the first time she had been through that particular temporal nexus, but she was going to keep that piece of information to herself, at least for now. She had caused one man to sacrifice himself for the good of billions. A fair trade, perhaps…no, she was certain. Gaheris Rhade had been a trusted and admired first officer, and he had betrayed the ship and her crew when the Nietzscheans had revolted against the Commonwealth. He had murdered the captain, his friend, and been frozen in time as the Andromeda Ascendant moved inexorably toward the event horizon of a black hole. Three hundred years later the ship had been pulled free. Rhade had been devastated when he discovered what had happened since the Nietzscheans--his people--had brought down the Systems Commonwealth.
Imposing his will on the great starship, and taking on the salvage crew that had rescued her, he had set out to repair the damage and rebuild, by any means necessary, the Commonwealth.
He had failed, his efforts leading to exponentially worsening conditions. Trance had lived in a future of black despair and endless destruction. When the opportunity arose, she had marshaled her powers and ridden the probability stream until she reached the nexus she needed. Time and space were tangled in complex knots at that point, victims of an out-of-control tesseract machine that was folding space a bit too efficiently.
She had stepped out of her present and into her past. Her younger self had nervously changed places with her--she hadn't remembered being quite that shade of purple--and she had gone to speak with Rhade.
The conversation had not been a long one. When it was over, she had taken him through a spatio-temporal interface, leaving him on the Andromeda Ascendant just before his betrayal. She had left, but she knew what had happened then. Gaheris Rhade had, in defiance of temporal logic, shot his younger incarnation, taken his place, and reversed events by allowing himself to be killed by the man he had betrayed.
Everyone else believed that the mysterious tesseract generator was the sole source of the space-time distortions. Trance, however, knew the truth--that the tesseract generator was only one of the reasons space-time had suddenly begun tearing itself apart.
The universe had needed to realign itself following Rhade's final actions. She had not helped the healing process much by looping around once more, coming backward from a future that was only marginally less terrible. Her younger self was, if anything, even more nervous about changing places with her. There had been no choice other than to take the second journey into the nexus. There was far too much at stake for her to hesitate.
There was a price for her determination, however. With each decision she made, each step she took to set things right, she endured another mental upheaval as her memory realigned to each change in the timeline. The shifts felt like tidal currents pulling at her mind, and sometimes all she wanted was to be swept away. Keeping all the pieces in the proper places was no easy task, even for her.
There was so much to do, still. Sooner or later she was going to have to let more of the truth out, and bear the consequences.
Someday she would have to tell them all what she really was.
Still, things had changed. She hesitated to trust that the changes were all positive, but she could hope. She had put too much of herself into this to fail now.
Nothing was clear anymore. Nothing.
She bowed her head for a moment, and took a deep breath, trying to focus. She looked up again, centering herself, and letting her mind drift until the starfield was all she was aware of.
"Help me," she whispered. "Please. Help me."
* * *
Captain Dylan Hunt, the tall, towheaded commander of the Systems Commonwealth starship Andromeda Ascendant, strode out onto the expansive Command Deck. There was always pleasure in the moment of contemplation before his mind turned to command issues; Andromeda was a live being, and he could feel her pulse, her heartbeat.
Come to think of it, he could literally feel her pulse or heartbeat if he wanted to--all he had to do was reach out to Andromeda's android avatar. Seamus Zelazny Harper, their sometimes-lunatic engineer, had built the avatar using old High Guard manuals found on a former High Guard station. He had started with a standard maintenance android as his template and by the time he was done he had created a perfect match for the idealized image that the ship's AI used. The avatar was slender and exotic, but the sylphlike appearance was deceptive. He had fought alongside her on several occasions, and always felt slow and clumsy in comparison.
To his right, standing at one of the bridge consoles, Andromeda--Rommie, as she preferred to be called--turned her head to look at him. Her face was still, and she said nothing, but it was enough to make him take a mental step backward to see what he was doing to pique her curiosity.
He was smiling, he realized. One of those big, beaming smiles, full of sunshine. Alarmed, he realized he was on the verge of becoming perky.
"Radiant joy and gleaming hope." Dylan turned to his left, still smiling. The words were bright, but in the dour, laconic drawl of Tyr Anasazi they had all the qualities of a dirge. "Have you seen the light of the Divine then, Dylan, and decided to follow the Way?"
As suggestions went, it was certainly not a bad one. Wayists were among the most peaceful beings in this brave new Systems Commonwealth that he had kick-started into existence. He had seen for himself that the Wayist path could tame even the ferocity of Magog. Well, one Magog, the Reverend Behemiel Far Traveler. Rev Bem had left their small company suddenly, driven by a need to find answers to unexpected questions. It was the best path for Rev to take, Dylan knew, but he still felt the loss on a spiritual level.
Tyr, of course, felt quite free to mock the Way. The religion encouraged a passivity that ran counter to everything in the Nietzschean culture's philosophy, where survival by any means was the ultimate goal. Bioengineered into existence by Drago Museveni, who had turned his own son into the first of the Homo sapiens invictus genus, Nietzscheans had inherited a drastic philosophy--they were to be the perfect, unconquerable people. It was the perception that their existence was threatened by Commonwealth policies toward the feral Magog that had caused the Nietzschean prides to unite in a revolution. Ultimately, the Commonwealth had fallen. With the onset of the Long Night, the Nietzschean prides had turned on each other. In Dylan's time they had been warriors, poets, artisans. That was no longer the case.
Tyr had indeed survived, outliving the rest of his pride, but it was not exactly a worthy achievement by Nietzschean standards. It had, instead, made his genetic line suspect--if the Kodiak Pride had fallen before their enemies, then it indicated weakness.
He had no time to retort to the Nietzschean, however. Beka Valentine was standing at the pilot's console, leaning slightly backward. Her full lips quirked slightly. "Tyr's got a point. A good point." She looked across Command, to where the slight and extremely rumpled figure of Seamus Harper was standing and staring into a mug of coffee. Inducted into the reconstituted High Guard or not, there was no chance that Harper was ever going to come close to any sort of uniform code.
Harper suddenly realized he was being looked at. "Huh?"
Oh, yes, a typical Harper moment. Normally he lived in overdrive, but there were moments when he underwent a complete disconnect.
Harper looked at each of them in turn, his face screwing up further and further in confusion. He finally looked back at Beka. "What?"
Another Harper tic. Seamus Harper could turn any monosyllabic word into one containing two syllables or more. It was definitely not his most appreciated talent.
"You slipped something into Dylan's breakfast, didn't you?" Beka said. "I know you, Harper. It's that crazy engineer stuff you do."
Tyr turned to look at Harper. The big Nietzschean had the expression of a man regarding a bug he was contemplating crushing. In the Nietzschean's case that might be exactly the thing he had in mind.
"Hey, wait a freakin' minute!" Harper protested, his expression shifting between astonishment, disbelief, and annoyance in rapid succession. "Why would I do something like that?"
"Wouldn't be the first time," Beka said.
"Oh, come on, that was a freakin' accident!" Harper cried as Tyr, Rommie, and Dylan turned to look at Beka.
"Tyranian joy-juice," she said.
"So I didn't know, okay?" Dylan, Tyr, and Rommie looked back at Harper. Dylan wondered if this was what life had normally been like on the Eureka Maru, Beka's salvage ship. More sullenly, Harper added, "The guy in the store said it was like orange juice for humans. I thought it would be good with breakfast."
"It took us a week to get Trance back to normal," Beka said ruefully, looking at Dylan.
"You mean whatever passes for normal with Trance," Harper added.
"I believe I understand what has been behind my good mood of late," Tyr said quietly. Dylan's smile faded as he tensed. Tyr couldn't be taking this seriously, could he? Then again, Dylan couldn't remember any indication of a good mood on Tyr's part lately.
"Oh, no! Ohhh, no!" Harper said, holding up a hand as Tyr stepped off of the command riser and walked toward him. Dylan almost started to smile again at the contrast. Tyr was very tall, very dark, and extremely muscular. His expression was calm, but his gaze did not waver in the slightest, and the mass of long dreadlocks that hung halfway down his back only added to the image of a predator sizing up a snack.
Harper, on the other hand, was a wiry, rumpled man of average height. While it was not a good idea to underestimate Harper's ability in a fight, he was no match for Tyr.
Harper turned to Rommie. He was beginning to look desperate now. "Rom-doll, you see everything--"
Rommie's holographic avatar shimmered into view next to Harper, startling him. "We all know how good you are with my systems, Harper."
"He does have a way with women, doesn't he?" the android avatar said to the holographic avatar.
Screens lit up with the image of the ship's core AI. "That's one way of putting it."
"So," the android Rommie said, "I can't vouch for you, can I?"
Harper had now worked all the way through to slack-jawed astonishment. "I don't freakin' believe it. Rommie, if I'd been messing around with your circuits--"
"Perhaps you have a secret agenda," said Tyr.
Dylan could almost see Harper's brain suddenly going full blast, as though someone had thrown a switch. "Yeah, right, like I care, Tyr. That stuff's your department. Well, yours and Trance's."
"I have a secret agenda?" The sound of Trance's voice made everyone turn toward the Command Deck entrance. Dylan, knowing all too well what Trance was capable of, wondered how long she had been standing there. "And why are you trying to scare Harper?"
Tyr raised an eyebrow. "The spirit of fun," he said.
"Oh, sure," Harper said with a sneer. "Your idea of fun is blowing stuff up. Or shooting things. Or shooting them and then blowing them up."
"I think we've had enough fun for now," Dylan said. "We're back in the business of making new friends, and I want everybody ready to make the best possible impression when we reach Kantar. Even you, Mr. Harper."
Harper looked down at his rumpled clothes, then across at Beka. "This is just fine, right, Boss?"
"Oh, for a lot of things," Beka said. Harper had been her engineer on the Eureka Maru for years before they had encountered Dylan. As far as she cared, Harper could wear whatever he wanted, just as long as he got the job done and didn't scare the clients. "Just not for these diplomatic missions Dylan likes to bore us with."
"I don't think it'll be so boring," Trance interjected. Somehow, her baby-doll voice managed to fill the deck.
All levity was suddenly gone. Trance Gemini was an enigma, and every time there seemed a possibility of finding explanations for her, other questions arose. She was the most disingenuous person Dylan had ever known. She had signed up with Beka's crew on the Eureka Maru, but no one had known her background--no one had asked. In this day and age, even with the formation of a new Commonwealth, questions could get you killed.
"Well," Dylan said with a smile, "I do like to keep my crew entertained."
Trance did not return the smile. Her expression was deadly serious, and Dylan realized that she was not blinking. He had a momentary and unnerving feeling that he was suddenly trying to stare down a snake. He wasn't sure which bothered him more--the idea that Trance's objectives might always be obscure…or the idea that she might one day suddenly make complete sense to him.
Trance Gemini without the slightest attempt at obfuscation was not cause for comfort.
The background sounds of the bridge, all the beeps, hums, hisses, and the quiet pulse of the sublight engines took on an oppressive quality, everything seeming too loud.
Dylan wasn't willing to let the sounds close in on him, unnerving him further. "What is it, Trance?" He kept his tone just shy of full authority, shading it with concern.
She walked up to him, still unblinking. He was more than a third of a meter taller than she was, but if he had ever hoped to intimidate her with his stature he had failed long ago. Everyone else involved with the salvage of Andromeda Ascendant had become furious at Dylan's spirited defense of his ship against the trespassing salvage crew. Not Trance. Trance had teased him and led him on a merry chase.
When Trance announced that she was fed up with the attempts to track Dylan down and kill him, and that she was quitting the operation, Beka's Nightsider client, Gerentex, had cold-bloodedly shot Trance at point-blank range. Up until that point, Dylan had been treating the struggle almost as a game, even when dealing with Tyr's mercenary band.
Dylan had flown into a rage. While he had no intention of killing anyone, he certainly intended to deal out some pain. His mother came from a line of heavy-grav-adapted humans and as a result he was fast, light on his feet, and could punch at least twice as hard as any ordinary human. His High Guard training and Argosy Special Operations skills were a bonus. Except for Tyr, the mercenaries had not stood a chance.
Somehow, though, he had ended up with half of the trespassers as his crew. Trance should not have been among them--to all indications she was dead, and beyond any attempt to save her, even if they had known what species she was. He had been quite surprised to find her fully recovered, quite cheerful, and showing absolutely no sign that she had been shot.
"Life is filled with surprises," Trance said softly. Rommie heard, of course; the android's hearing was acute. Dylan noted Rommie's quizzical expression.
Dylan waited.
Finally, Trance said, "Lighthouse keepers."
Rommie was looking completely baffled now. "What? That wasn't exactly a complete sentence, Trance."
Trance's face screwed up as she gave all the appearance of struggling for words.
"Here we go again," Tyr muttered. "Mystery and confusion."
"When I get my flashes…" Trance started. She shook her head, glanced at Rommie, then fixed her gaze back on Dylan. "It's never precise, Dylan. Things come in jumbled and confused and…and I have to focus really hard to…to…I don't know!" She flapped her arms helplessly. Now she was back in little girl mode.
Dylan had grown too used to Trance's mercurial states to pay the shift any attention. "Lighthouse keepers," he prompted.
"Oh. Right." Trance squinted. "Watch out for the lighthouse keepers was the first thing." She wrinkled her nose. "A plague of lighthouse keepers was another. And cold." She shivered. Dylan didn't think that was an act. "Lots of cold."
"Whoah!" Harper exclaimed, his face lighting up. "If we're going someplace with lots of snow, I'm bringing a snowboard."
"I don't think it's that kind of cold place," Trance said, turning to look at him.
"Ooookay," Harper said, just a little too frantically. "Everybody who's in favor of turning the ship around and going somewhere else, raise your hands and say 'aye'"! He raised a hand. Everyone else ignored him. "I'm gonna say I told you so, guys, right before we get blown into itty-bitty pieces."
Tyr rolled his eyes, then glared at Harper. "Mr. Harper, I fail to find your defeatist commentary either amusing or relevant."
"Does this have anything to do with where we're going?" Dylan asked her. This latest performance from Trance made him wonder if they were on the verge of a colossal mistake.
"I don't know." Trance looked confused, as though she had lost track of an important thought. "Maybe." She frowned. "Not the cold part, though."
She was silent for a few moments longer.
Finally, she said, "Something's wrong, Dylan, that's all I know."
"All this," Tyr rumbled, "to say that we must stay alert."
"It's more than that, Tyr," Trance said urgently. "It's more than that."
"Or perhaps it is less than notable." Tyr shook his head and turned back to his fire control console, leaning on it. "I have heard more convincing mutterings from would-be fortune-tellers. At least their goal was to part the gullible from their money."
Dylan glanced at Beka, who was watching Trance with rapt attention. "Beka?"
Beka looked at him, and he could see the lines of concern in her face. Beka had been through too much to discount any possible warning sign. She was the best Slipstream pilot he had ever known, but her life had been difficult, with everything from a family rife with criminals to her own daily battle against her addiction to Flash, a powerful drug that could enhance a pilot's reactions tremendously--at the cost of destroying them physically.
Still, he trusted her to assess the things Trance had said and give him an appropriate response. Beka was his strong right hand.
"We know Trance's flashes," Beka said, finally.
"We know how much trouble we can get into as a result," Rommie said. Beka and Dylan looked around. Rommie had her arms folded across her chest, and a determined look on her face. "Although I will admit that she seems to be somewhat less chaotic since her…change."
Trance gave Dylan a look that said, in no uncertain terms, I'm vindicated.
"Besides, it isn't just the flashes," Beka continued. Directly to Trance, she said, "We always could count on you for happy accidents, Trance."
In her I'm-so-cute voice, Trance said, "I'm your good-luck charm."
"You are also quite annoying when you do that," Tyr grumbled.
"The voice of Mr. Happy," Harper said. "Keep this up, Tyr, and I am gonna slip something into your food."
"His nanobots would handle it," Trance said. Her face suddenly went blank. It was brief, but Dylan was startled. "Dylan, remember that."
"Tyr's nanobots?" Dylan said, baffled. Nietzscheans used a complex mixture of genetic and social engineering, along with a liberal dose of nanotechnology. As a result they were tough, fast, and smart, an amplified breed of humans now classified as Homo sapiens invictus.
"Just nanobots. All you have to do is remember the nanobots at the right time."
"Right. The nanobots."
"And the lighthouse keepers," Beka reminded him.
"And the plague of lighthouse keepers," Tyr added. "Whatever that is."
"Well," Beka said, "we can't just dismiss it out of hand. I just wish I knew where to look for ideas."
"That's my job," Rommie said.
The holographic avatar shimmered into life and said, primly, "Actually, it's mine."
The ship's interface lit up again. "I hope you two aren't going to start arguing."
"Never," said the holographic Rommie.
"Depends on the subject," the android responded.
"Just don't kill the messenger, okay?" Trance said. Everyone turned to look at her. "Figure of speech."
Tyr glowered at her. "If anyone could figure out a way to kill you, Trance, I might be tempted."
Dylan sighed. He hated it when Tyr got into a grumpy mood. Then again, Tyr's use of emotion as a tool of manipulation was just as fine-tuned as Trance's.
It was time to break the chain and get on with business. "Beka, how long until the next Slip point?"
Beka glanced at one of her consoles. "Just under five minutes."
"Good enough. Harper, go do whatever it is you're doing."
Harper bounded onto the Command Deck riser. "Sure thing, Boss." He headed for the bridge exit, chuckling to himself. "And what was I doing? Just being Seamus Zelazny Harper, freakin' genius!"
"And a model of modesty, too," Beka called after him.
"Trance?" Dylan said.
Trance hesitated for a moment. Then she said, "Got it." She followed Harper. Both of them had their favorite bolt holes on the ship--Harper's was Machine Shop 17, while Trance's was the hydroponics gardens.
Dylan waited for a few moments, until he was certain that Trance was gone, then turned to Beka. "Transit to Slipstream as soon as you can. I'll be in my quarters."
Beka glanced quickly at Rommie, who responded with a shrug that essentially said, Hey, he's Dylan, he's designed to act weird.
"Okay," Beka said after a moment. Dylan was almost always on the Command Deck when the Andromeda Ascendant transited to Slipstream. "I'll put it on shipwide when I'm ready to go."
"Thanks," he said, and left Command. He was aware of Rommie starting to follow him, and then changing her mind.
This was shaping up to be a hell of a day.
* * *
Dylan was comfortably settled into his office chair, his long legs propped up on his desk, when Rommie's holographic avatar shimmered into existence. Even though he knew where to find the various projectors that created the illusion of this slim young woman standing before him in a formal at-ease stance, he still marveled at the grace and cleverness of Vedran technology. It still tugged at his heart that his homeworld of Tarn-Vedra seemed to be utterly gone, somehow hidden by the Vedrans as the Commonwealth collapsed following the assassination of the Vedran Empress.
He and Andromeda had been frozen in time for more than three hundred standard years. Despite his initial bravado, he had understood the magnitude of his loss--their loss--and it had threatened to bring him to his knees. Somehow, between his motley crew and his ambition to re-create the Commonwealth he had known, he had contrived to stay sane.
Still.…
"I'm not quite as idealistic as I used to be, am I?" he asked Rommie.
She raised an eyebrow. "Actually, I think it's worse than that," she said. He sat back, knowing he had set himself up without thinking. "Your teeth have lost that Space Ranger Bob gleam. You'll have to do something about that."
He snorted, not quite laughing. "For a warship, you're full of mischief."
"For the captain of a warship," she noted, "you're remarkably relaxed."
He sighed. "I really wanted to hold on to the past, Rommie. I really tried."
"The present won't let you do that."
"It never does." He pushed away from the desk, putting his feet down on the deck. He nodded at his casual shirt. "It took me more than two years to stop clinging to the uniforms and the symbols."
She smiled. "I know. I was here. Speaking as one who cares, I was glad to see you finally hang up the uniform. You're still High Guard, whether you're in dress uniform or breeches and a sleeveless shirt."
"There's a picture I'm not sure I'd like to see." He sighed again and shook his head. "That really isn't the point, Rommie. I have to let go of the past. If I can't do that, how can I figure out the future?"
"By taking it one step at a time like the rest of the universe?" she suggested. "I prefer to leave the long-term planning to Trance. She seems to have an idea of where everything is going."
He sat upright, attentive, his musing pushed aside for the moment. "Our good-luck charm was struggling to find the right thing to say."
Rommie mused for a moment. Dylan wondered how many different things she was doing in that span of time. "Perhaps those mysterious powers of hers are starting to fail."
"I don't know," Dylan admitted. He looked around his quarters. They were sparsely decorated, with a few trophies and a handful of treasured items. This was one of the few places on the ship that Trance had not managed to make her presence known in the form of plants. "She's been subdued for a few months."
"She did derail history," Rommie said. With the exception of Beka and Trance, who had an unpleasant future to look forward to, they were all supposed to have gone out in a blaze of glory. Trance had given them a painfully graphic description of the coming catastrophe…and Dylan had used that, and Trance herself, to change the course of events.
Trance had seemed a lot less prone to her flashes since then.
"So she could have burned herself out," Dylan said.
"Or moved our track so far away from the one we were on that she can't get a grip on what comes next. All hypothesis, of course. Trance appears to operate on some kind of multiplexed quantum level that I don't really understand. I do my best work in shooting at things, not soothsaying and reading minds." She suddenly looked toward the ceiling. "Shipwide is on."
"Heads up, everybody," Beka said, her voice carrying through the entire length of the ship. Dylan braced himself automatically against his chair. "Transiting to Slipstream in five…four…three…two…one…now!"
White light suffused the ship and Dylan felt himself being shaken and stretched as the Andromeda Ascendant shot through the Slipstream portal she had opened and dove into the nest of cosmic strings that comprised the Slipstream itself.
The transitional sensations continued until Beka guided the huge ship's Slipstream runners into contact with the streams she needed. Reality reasserted itself.
Dylan took a deep breath, waiting for his nervous system to shake off the transitional effects. When he was ready, he said, "We need to find some answers, Rommie, and I don't think we have much time."

Copyright © 2004 by Tribune Entertainment, Inc., and Fireworks Entertainment, Inc.

Meet the Author

Steven E. McDonald has worked in TV as a screenwriter for several action series, including Airwolf. He's written other tie-in novels, and an original SF novel, The Janus Syndrome. He lives in Tucson, Arizona.

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