Shieldbrothers: The Bonding

BY : Lursa_and_BeTor
Category: 1 through F > Andromeda
Dragon prints: 7300
Disclaimer: I do not own Andromeda, nor any of the characters from it. I do not make any money from the writing of this story.

Chapter 10: Dylan’s Epiphany

Wallace watches as Rommie stares down into the crystalline depths of the lake. Will she notice, can she tell that there are no plants or no fish in the lake? Wallace looks down at the soothing blue eddies of current swirling under his feet. He feels strong, powerful with the water flowing so close - just out of reach. He feels well able to control the Nietzscheans and Dylan. Had he not successfully taken care of those Nietzschean pests before?

"Amazing," Rommie says looking at the floor.

"What is?" Dylan asks.

"This floor is right above the lake...or an underground portion of it. How odd."

"What are you talking about?"

"What do you see, Dylan?" Rommie points at the floor.

"Nothing."

She nods. "Exactly! No animal or pllifelife of any kind."

Wallace hops up on the marble dais. It shouldn't be much longer before their unwanted guests arrived. The door opens with a clang. Wallace sniffs disdainfully. Just like those Nietzschean clods to make a noisy, showy entrance to try and intimidate him. Dylan and Rommie walk over to stand next to the dais. They all watch the entrance to the chamber as footsteps come closer and closer. Two Nietzschean women stop just inside the doors. Their eyes sweep over the chamber before focusing on the small group in the center of the room. Six men in black leather spread out behind them. The two women exchange glances and then descend to the ground floor with the men following behind them.

"Welcome to the Colony." Wallace stands very straight on the dais. His mouth flattens as the women come closer and he realizes that even standing on the dais, he is shorter than they are. He has to fight the urge to step back as they move closer.

"I am First Beta Katherine Bonaparte, of Neteryu Pride, out of Diana, by Ptolemy." Katherine looks Wallace up and down and sneers. She's never thought much of men but this one is particularly unimpressive. She shakes her head, making her long, white blond ponytail bounce over her bare shoulders. Her black leather ber per pushes her breasts up and bares the tight muscles of her abdomen. Black leather pants fit close to her narrow hips. Twin gauss pistols are strapped to each thigh. High on her left arm, where a helix would have been if she had been a fertile female, is a band of woven silk cords, green, white and melon, with a gold chain interwoven into the silk. "I bring greetings from Benito Bonaparte, First Alpha of Neteryu Pr"
"

The second woman steps forward. Her long straight jet-black hair drapes over the black leather tabard that bares the bronze skin on each side of her waist. Her matching leather pants fit tightly over the curves of her hips. A gold chain with small iridescence, gold-blue-green feathers is woven into her braid. A gauss pistol is holstered at her thigh. "I bring you greetings from Dieter Rachmaninoff, First Alpha of Creek-Shalom Pride. I am First Beta Athena Rachmaninoff."

Wallace smiles coolly at them. "Greetings and welcome to you both. I am Wallace St. Clair, Headman of the Valerus Colony. This is..."

"Captain Dylan Hunt of the Andromeda Ascendant, at your service." Dylan interjects smoothly. He smiles widely at the two women and inclines his head toward the avatar, "This is Rommie. I take it, you two are relatives of the respective alphas, is that correct."

Athena nods. "It is. I am Dieter's sister."

"And you, Katherine?" Dylan asks.

"I am sister to the Neteryu Alpha." Katherine stares at the big blond. He is much more presentable thhe Che Colony's leader. Too bad, she has such little time to waste here, or she would see how much fury she could rouse in her shieldsister by flirting with the kludge. Still, she might be able to add a little something to her next visit to Athena's quarters. She smiles slowly at the kludge, allowing Athena to see it. Ummm. A rush of heat throbs at the apex of her thighs at the look in Athena's dark eyes.

"We are pleased you could join us." an san smiles warmly back at Katherine.

Wallace glowers at Dylan. How dare the man try to take command of his meeting in his Colony? This is HIS space. He rules here. Not the annoyingly tall Captain. Wallace waves a hand at the chairs as he drops into his own ornate chair of state. "Please be seated. How may we help you?"

Katherine gives Dylan a sidelong look of invitation, carefully angling her face so that her shieldsister catches the looks as well. She steps closer to the blond kludge, running an openly admiring gaze over his sturdy frame before turning head ead to stare disdainfully at Wallace. "We are giving you six hours to turn the device over to us."

"If you do not comply, we will wipe your colony off the face of this planet and take the device by force." Athena glides between Katherine and Dylan. Her full lips curl back in a snarl as she glowers at Dylan who stares back at her in puzzlement.

"Whoa! Stop! Wait a minute." Dylan looks from Wallace to the two women. "What device? What are you talking about?"

"He hasn't told you of the device, of their secret weapon?" Katherine raises a pale brow quizzically. Amusement glints in her pale eyes as Dylan shakes his head. "Pity."

Dylan frowns at Wallace. "St. Clair, what device are they talking about?"

"I...I...I...have no idea." Wallace's gaze slides uneasily away, avoiding Dylan's suspicious stare. "I don't know what they’re talking about. We have no device."

"He's correct, Dylan," Rommie adds as Dylan looks at her. "There is very little technology present in the colony."

"They've hidden it." Athena strokes one hand over her braid. She glances sidelong at Katherine as her fingertips brush lightly over the swell of her breasts. A smile touches her full lips as she notes the avid look in Katherine's blue eyes.

"What is this device?" Dylan asks insistently. "What does it do?"

"There...is...no...weapon, Captain!" Wallace waves his hands in an exasperated gesture. "We are a peaceful people."

"He lies!" Katherine growls roughly as she glares at Wallace. "Ask him about the Nietzscheans they have slaughtered over the years. Ask him about the Nietzschean ships they've looted."

Athena's hand slides down the curve of her hip to brush against her holster. "It is a weapon of such power that it can wrench a starship from space. It can reduce matter to vapor."

"If we had such a device," Wallace glances sidelong at Dylan, measuring the Captain's reaction, "why would we need to ask for aid from the Andromeda?"

"A ploy, a ruse...nothing more." Athena's dark eyes narrow in menace. "You hoped Captain Hunt would believe your deception."

Katherine laughs. "And he did! How delightful."

"Have you seen this weapon?" Dylan asks as he glances around the room. So far he has seen nothing that hints of any advanced technology.

Athena shakes her head. "No, personally, we have not seen this weapon. However we have gathered information from those who have seen the results of itstructructive power. Those few who managed to escape its path."

Wallace frowns at the growing suspicion narrowing Dylan's eyes. Is the Captain listening to these two creatures? Is there any chance that Dylan might believe them? {Hunt, don't believe what they're telling you.}

Dylan spins around to stare at the Headman. His eyes are wide withzemezement. "St. Clair?"

{Quiet…just listen. I can explain}

Dylan nods. "Explain."

{Yes. I'll tell you the whole truth…}

"What truth?" Dylan frowns.

"Enough of this!" Katherine stalks closer, snarling at Wallace. "St. Clair. We did not travel all this way to talk to you. We came to speak to the leaders of the Colony. Where are they?"

"I speak for the Colony." Wallace lifts his chin. His eyes narrow. How dare this petty creature question him? "My word is law."

"Come now, human...don't waste my time! You are nothing, but a puppet manipulated by the true leaders." Katherine caresses the butts of her gauss guns. "Now tell us where they are!"

"They're on my ship." Dylan moves between her and Wallace. If Wallace isn't the leader, which of the others are? Mariyam, perhaps?

Katherine looks Dylan up and down and sneers. "Turn them over to us and we'll spare your lives."

"No." Dylan’s mouth flattens in a determined line as he stares back at her.

"Very well." Athena glances at her men and orders, "Tie them up. We'll see if we can 'persuade' the Headman to talk to us."

Persuade him, will she? Those pathetic lumps of guards touch him? Bind him to their will? HA! Wallace laughs scornfully and closes his eyes, reaching for the power sparking within him. He can feel it flowing richly beneath his feet. He can't tapt sot source, but he should have absorbed enough to deal with these barbarians. Wallace waves his hands and the Nietzschean men are knocked across the room by an unseen force.

Athena promptly kicks the nearest fallen guard in the ribs. Her dark glare sweeps over the other men who are scrambling to their feet. Why had she been assigned idiots? How did they expect her to succeed with such morons? "Get up! Subdue him, you fools!"

Katherine taps a device on her right wrist that resembles a wide gold wristband as Rommie moves protectively rontront of Dylan. "Oh, no, you don't. We've heard about you, Andromeda Ascendant – The Ship made Flesh, how poetic." Katherine taps her wristband once more and grins as an electrical charge jolts through Rommie sending the android slumping to the floor.

"Rommie!" Dylan shouts lunging toward the fallen Rommie.

"Ah, yes, a rose by any other name is still an android!" Katherine sniggers as Dylan strokes back Rommie's dark hair.

The guards approach Wallace again, charging him fast and hard. Wallace laughs and shoves them back, but the Nietzscheans't f't fall so far away this time. Wallace frowns as he reaches again for his power, but it's fading. Maybe if he hadn't been so long away from the Source he could do more damage. Wallace tries again and clutches his head as pain surges through him. What's wrong? Why does he feel so strange and weak? He looks up as the Nietzscheans come for him and manages a weak mental push that shoves them back a few feet only.

Katherine trades an exasperated look with her shielter.ter. Apparently they are going to have to settle matters themselves. Katherine draws her guass gun and shoots Wallace in the abdomen. She ignores the kludge, sagging to the floor as she glares at the guards. "See! How difficult was that?!"

Dylan hurries from Rommie to Wallace. He looks up at the two women. "He's unconscious. We need to take care of this wound or it could be life threatening."

Life threatening? Katherine smirks. The blond kludge is so amusing. Too bad she doesn't have time to have a little fun with him. She aims her gun at the kludge's fair head. "Never mind about him. Get away from him."

"Good." Athena spares an approving smile for her shieldsister. She glances around at the guards and sighs. "Now do you think you can subdue them?"

Two guards quickly move forward and lift Wallace to his chair. The other two grab Dylan and Rommie.

Katherine grins as she watches the guards tying Dylan and Rommie up. Ummm. The kludge Captain looks like he's considering resisting. Oooh. She hopes he does. She licks her lips as she imagines blood staining his skin. Too bad she just doesn't have the time. She keeps her gun trained on his head as she catches his palze aze and warns, "Don't think about it."

She sighs with disappointment as Dylan scowls but permits the guards to finish tying him. The other kludge is slumping in his chair. He's not going to be very interesting. Katherine steps over to Wallace, and waits, tapping her foot until he stirs. About time. She waits until his eyes open and then she backhands him hard enough that his glasses hit the floor and crack. "Come on...tell us where the device is and we won't have to kill you."

"There is no device."

Huh. More balls that she'd thought. Maybe Wallace will be interesting after all. Katherine promptly backhands him again. "How did you fight my men? How have you been able to defeat the others who came here? Where is the device?!"

Wallace moans and sags lower in the chair. Blood drips from his mouth to be absorbed by his velvet tunic as he mumbles, "There is no device. There...is...no...device."

Katherine raises her hand and Dylan shouts. "No, don't!"

Katherine glances at the blond kludge and raises her eyebrow. She smiles sweetly at Dylan and waits just long enough for the kludge to begin to think that she values his will before she slaps Wallace again. She turns back to the Captain as Wallace slumps to one side. "Yes? You have something to add, Captain Hunt?"

"You don't have to hit him." Dylan frowns sternly.

"You're quite right. I don't have to." Katherine tilts her head to one side and adopts a thoughtful air. "If he will give me the names of the colony leaders...one leader...I’ll let him go.”

"I can't," Wallace mumbles as he tries again to access his power. He groans. "Too weak. I can't."

Katherine stares appraisingly at Wallace for a moment before turning back to Dylan. "Contact your ship. Have all colonists returned to the surface."

Dylan glances over at Rommie as she moves, jerkily raising her head. Her dark eyes open and she turns to look at him. He narrows his eyes at Katherine and lifts his jaw. "I'm not going to do that."

"Oh, you'll do it or I'll kill him in front of you." Katherine smiles as she aims her gun at Wallace.

{Please Hunt. No. Keep them safe. Keep my Mariyam safe.}

"Wallace...Wallace..." Dylan turns his head toward Wallace.

Rommie murmurs, "His heartbeat and breathing are becoming erratic, Dylan."

{Promise me, Hunt! Promise me!}

"I will keep them safe." Dylan meets Wallace's fading gaze with determination.

{Tell her I loved her...tell her I knew about the children and I still loved her.}

"Tell her yourself, St. Clair. Don't give up," Dylan urges.

{Promise me} The thought is fading even as it is sent.

"I will," Dylan whispers.

Katherine glances suspciously from Dylan to Wallace. Her eyes narrow as she growls. "Tell me what I want to know or it will go very badly for your little..."

Athena strolls over to the Headman and yanks back his back. Her fingers touch his throat and sighs, abruptly dropping his head. "Don't bother."

"Dylan. He's dead," Rommie whispers.

"Now, Captain Hunt." Athena circles Dylan. She smiles cheerily at him as she pauses in front of him. "Are we ready to negotiate?"

"I don't negotiate with murderers." Dylan stares at her with open disdain.

Athena trails her fingers down the side of his face and pats his cheek. "Oh, I think I can change your mind on that point."

Dylan jerks his head back. "I am a representative of the New Commonwealth."

Katherine recoils with a look of exaggerated fear and horror. Then she straightens and laughs. "Ooooh, and how many member worlds do youst, st, Hunt? Six, Eight??"

"The Commonwealth is being restored and this behavior is no longer condoned."

"Still riding that moral high horse are you?" Athena ruffles Dylan's hair in a playful manner. She smiles and backhands Dylan hard enough to rock him in the chair.

Katherine strolls around to lean over the back of the kludge’s chair. She laughs softly and trades a heated look with Athena over the kludge's head. "Perhaps you should use smaller words when speaking to him. He doesn't seem very bright."

Athena leans down as her shieldsister helpfully yanks Dylan's head back. Athena stares into his pale eyes. "That won't do. Contact your ship. Or I'll have to 'encourage' you and I'm not nearly as nice as my associate."

"I'm not afraid of you."

"Su bra brave man." Athena sighs with satisfaction as she straightens. She strokes her long braid as she looks into her shieldsister's eyes. Ummmm. She can smell the lush scent of her shieldsister's arousal. As soon as they get back to the ship. Athena looks down at the kludge and smiles. "I'm glad you’re not afraid. A challenge...invigorates me. You will be afraid when I’m finished with you."

Katherine moves around to stand behind Athena, kissing the other woman's cheek. They both turn to glance thoughtfully at Rommie. Katherine smirks over Athena's shoulder. "Are you hoping your little toy will free you? She's a machine and like any machine she can be deactivated. Shall I show you again?"

Dylan glares at the two women. "No."

"Excellent...I knew we could negotiate." Athena brushes her lips over Katherine's. "Send your men and sweep the compound. The Captain and I are going to have a...chat."

Katherine turns and raps out her orders to the men. As they leave, she strides over to Wallace. She pulls out a knife and cuts the ropes. Katherine grabs the collar of the velvet jacket and yanks, dumping Wallace's body on the marble floor with a thud.

Dylan winces.

Athena laughs. "What's the matter Captain? You seem a bit squeamish."

"Show the man a little respect." Dylan glances uneasily at Wallace's corpse.

"Why?" Katherine sheaths her knife in her boot and drops down on silksilk cushions. She leans back comfortably, crossing her legs at the ankle and propping her boots on Wallace's back. "He was an annoying kludge when he was alive and now he's just another dead kludge. No sense letting the blood drip onto the upholstery."

Athena smiles down at Dylan. "Now, then. Let's contact the Andromeda, shall we?"

"Over my dead body."

Athena points her pistol at Dylan and tilts her head to one side. She laughs softly. "Works for me."


***

Tyr returns to the Command Deck just as Andromeda announces that she has received a message from Dylan. He walks over to take up his position at the Weapons console. What new mess has Dylan created? Shall he rescue the man one more time or is it time to trade up for a new Captain? Tyr leans against his console, eyeing Beka thoughtfully.

"Let's see it on screen," Beka commands. Her blue eyes narrow with suspicion.

"The message is audio only," Andromeda responses.

Tyr shakes his head. Dylan has done it again. He's never worked for anyone that had to be rescued so often. Beka is looking better all the time as a potential captain. "He's been captured."

"How can you say that, Tyr?" Beka turns toward him and glowers. "You can't know that for certain. There's some interference in the atmosphere."

"Yes, there is and it's the Nietzscheans who are initiating it." Tyr stares coolly back at her. The sooner, she admits to the situation, the sooner it can be d wit with.

Beka reluctantly nods agreement. She leans against her console, her shoulders drooping slightly. "Andromeda play message."

Dylan's voice rolls around the deck, his voice unnaturally flat and expressionless. "Beka, everything is going according to plan down here. It seems the Nietzscheans are not interested in the colony at all. They are interested in negotiating a trade agreement with the colony."

"A trade agreement?" Beka echoes disbelievingly. "What have they got to trade?"

"They are working on the details of that when they talk to the others."

"Others?" Beka scowls at the blank screen, but her voice expresses only mild interest.

Tyr walks silently up behind Beka and whispers into her ear, "It's a trap and a thinly veiled one at that."

"Dylan," Beka shivers at the feel of Tyr's warmth breath against her cheek. She takes a step away from him. "Is Wallace in negotiations with the Nietzscheans?"

"Um...actually, no. They are interested in speaking to other people in the colony."

Beka sighs. She looks at Trance and Tyr who shake their heads. "Well, ah, Dylan that may be a problem."

"Whatever it is, Beka, fix it and get those people down here."

"Captain, would it not be best for all concerned if the negotiations took place here?" Tyr suggests, hoping to give Dylan a way to provide them with more informaton ton the situation.

"No need for that. Just get them down here. I'm sending Rommie with the Maru. I'm staying at the colony to...um...facilitate negotiations. Hunt out."

"Well, that doesn't sound like Dylan." Trance stares at Beka with wide eyes. Her tail twines thoughtfully around the Environmental Controls console.

Andromeda's image appears on the screen. She frowns. "I only have sporadic contact with my avatar. Communication is inconsistent with the normal mode."

Yet another indication of things going wrong with Dylan's initial plan. Surprise,prisprise. Tyr eyes the Andromeda image on the screen. "What could cause this, ship?"

"An electromagnetic pulse can disrupt communication. Any number of other factors may be at work." Andromeda’s dark eyes gaze at the ceiling as she considers. She looks straight at Beka. "Beka. I am detecting two Nietzschean life signs on board the Maru."

"Peachy." Beka slaps her palms against the side of her console. "Just peachy."

"I'll meet our guests." Tyr pivots and stalks out the door. He jogs down the corridor, snapping to Andromeda. "Ship, have Harper meet me at the docking bay."

"Acknowledged."

***

Harper runs down the corridor, clutching a gauss gun in one hand. Dylan sure had a way of screwing up a guy's plans. He'd been enjoying a nice, quiet day of catch-up repairs while gloating over the prospect of going home to Tyr and what happens but that he gets summoned from Work Room 5 to intercept intruders. And not just any intruders, but Nietzscheans. The fun just never ends on the Andromeda Ascendant. Hopefully Dylan's latest wild start has not resulted in serious damage to Rommie. Harper puts on a burst of speed as he spots Tyr waiting in front of the doors to the docking bay. "Andromeda told me to meet you here."

"I'm glad you are here." Tyr smiles at Harper. His amber eyes glint with the anticipation of action as he ties back his long hair. He unholsters his guass gun. "Let's make short work of this so we can find out what's going on down on the planet."

Harper promises, "I got your back."

"Of that, I have no doubt."

As the Maru lands, Tyr darts through the hanger doors with Harper running close behind him. Tyr slides smoothly into the shadow of a slipstream fighter. Harper crouches behind another fighter. Harper freezes, trying to blend in as two Nietzschean males pause in the Maru's hatch. Harper glances over at Tyr who signals him to be ready. Harper takes aim and waits until the two Nietzscheans began a dash across the hanger floor. He begins shooting at them, drawing their fire as Tyr pops up and takes out both men with precise shots. Tyr moves cautiously over to check the men and then disappears into the Maru. A few minutes later, he reappears in the hatch to gives Harper an all-clear sign.

Harper holsters his gauss pistol as he hurries into the Maru. His mouth thins with anger as he sees Rommie lying on the floor of the cockpit. He drops to his knees beside her and anxiously begins scanning her.

Tyr stands behind Harper, watching. "What happened?"

"Looks like some sort of EMP took out some of her motor control and a few other systems. Otherwise she should be okay." Harper's frown eases as he reads the reassuring figures on his scanner. "Let's get her out of here so I can work on her later."

"I've got her." Tyr drapes the avatar over his shoulder and carries her into the Maru's cargo area. He lays her gently on the floor as Harper watches.

Beka's voice came over the ship's com. "Guys, I just got another hail from Dylan. We're going to need to think of something pretty fast."

"Acknowledged," Tyr answers.

"Why don't we just send them what they want?" Harper touches Rommie’s face, softly stroking back her dark hair. His blue eyes are slowly filling with anger as he looks down into her still face.

Tyr gives Harper's shoulder a comforting squeeze. "Because we have no guarantee that Dylan will be released."

"I'm open to ideas," Beka announces dryly.

"Have the ship wake up Mariyam." Tyr strokes lightly over the back of Harper's neck, easing the tense muscles. "We need to talk to her. She's the one who's probably able to help in this."

"I'll meet you at her quarters."

"Come on." Harper stalks out of the Maru and turns toward the doors of the docking bay.

"Where do you think you're going?" Tyr falls in next to Harper.

"With you." Harper lifts his chin defiantly as they exit the hanger. Mariyam's kids had said that she was an exceptionally powerful telepath. He isn't leaving Beka or Tyr alone with the woman. Maybe increasing the number of persons present would make it harder for her to use telepathy against them. If that failed, well, he has his gauss pistol. Besides...Harper looks Tyr over, openly possessive. "If you think I'm going to leave you alone with your ex-wife you have another think coming."

Tyr smiles as he traces his fingertip over the passion mark circling his nipple. "You have nothing to be jealous about."

"You know that...I know that...but I'll feel better being there."

"As you wish." Tyr heads toward Mariyam's quarters, walking companionably beside Harper.

***

Beka is standing outside the door to Mariyam's quarters, issuing orders as Harper and Tyr walk up. "Andromeda, clear saturation of crew quarters authorization Valentine Beta."

"Saturation clear."

Tyr palms open the door and walks in, followed by Beka and Harper. The outer room is empty as Tyr crosses it, moving on to the first bedroom. He pauses in the doorway. Mariyam is lying on the floor beside the bed, her white sari pooling around her. Freya lies on the bed, curled under the sheets and Freyr is in a crumpled heap on the foot of the bed. Mariyam slowly sits up and grips the bed, using it to climb to her feet. She leans over Freya, touching her daughter's face. Freya moans and stirs as her eyes open. Mariyam glances at the foot of the bed where Freyr is beginning to move, trying to sit up. Mariyam curls her lip at Tyr before turning accusingly to Beka. "What happened? The last thing I remember is bending over to check Freya and then I wake up on the floor. I don't understand…"

Freya sighs. "Mother...my head..."

"How are you?" Mariyam bends over her, brushing her fingers gently against her daughter's brow.

"It's not quite as bad...dull."

Freyr groans, cradling his head in his hands. Shivers run through his frame. "Ohhhh...I feel like I drank a pitcher of Costasberry wine."

"Enough of these pleasantries!" Tyr snaps. There is no time to waste if he is to rescue Dylan. Again. Mariyam's own manipulations have contributed to the mess along with Dylan's innate inclination formulate overly complicated schemes while underestimating his opponents. He had no sympathy for either of them. Tyr scowls menacingly at Mariyam. He has no desire to go ontherther rescue mission for Dylan, but for now, it is still in his own best interest to save Dylan. Again. There will be other opportunities to be rid of Dylan when the time isht. ht. "Woman, we need your help."

Mariyam elaborately ignores him, giving her attention to Beka. "I ask you again, Captain Valentine, what happened?"

Beka shrugs. "You and your fellow colonists began behaving as if you were going mad. We sealed the decks and flooded them with a sleep gas so that you would not harm yourselves."

"Or us," Harper adds. He stands near the door, watching Mariyam closely. His hand rests casually on his belt, next to the butt of his pistol.

Tyr glances briefly over his shoulder and hides a smile as he notes the pistol how how close Harper's hand is to it. Harper is jealous of Mariyam. He knows that, but that Harper would use and exhibit that emotion to achieve the human's real goal of gaining access to Mariyam's quarter so that Harper could guard his shieldbrother against a perceived threat..It is so devious. So Neitzschean. Tyr can feel his stomach muscles clenching in arousal. As soon as Dylan's mess is settled, he promises himself as he forces his attention back to Mariyam.

Mariyam draws herself up. "I can't imagine what it is. Perhaps it's the recycled air on this ship."

Freya turns her head on her pillow to look at Mariyam. "Mother. Please. Tell them. Tell them what we need."

"Please, Mother," Freyr begs. His voice is fading as he shivers continuously on the bed. "Before it's too late."

"Tell us what?" Beka demands, looking from the two youngsters to Mariyam.

Freyr whispers, "We need to get back to the planet. Now."

"I'm afraid that is not going to be possible," Tyr replies smoothly. He folds his arms across his chest as Beka and Harper look at him in surprise.

Comprehension flickers in Beka's vivid blue eyes. "Tyr. Wait. We may be able to take a few of them."

Tyr sets his face in lines of solemn consideration. "I'm not sure that's wise."

"Please, Tyr Anasazi." Freya raises a trembling hand to touch her head. "We need to touch the planet again or we'll die."

"Is this true, Mariyam?" Tyr asks softly.

Mariyam refuses to meet Tyr's eyes. "No. We'll be fine."

Tyr snorts. "I doubt that."

Tyr moves closer to the bed and runs an assessing glance over Mariyam's son and daughter. Freya is ashen and she is shaking. Freyr's hands tremble and convulsively knot in the sheets. Tyr glances at Beka. "Captain Valentine, do those symptoms look familiar?"

"Oh, my god," Beka whispers in sudden understanding.

Harper moves closer. "They're in withdrawal. The whole fricking colony is suffering from withdrawal. But from what?"

"Think, Harper." Tyr looks at the engineer. "What did they bring with them on the Maru?"

Harper frowns. "I can't remember anything special they brought with them. Just lots of containers of mineral water."

Mariyam scowls at him and turns hopefully to Beka. "We just need to go home."

Harper stares at Mariyam with barely hidden distaste. "Well, we have a bit of a...situation, right now."

"Situation?" Mariyam turns reluctantly back to him.

"The Nietzscheans want to talk to your group." Beka looks coolly at the other woman.

"I don't understand. Wallace is…" Mariyam rubs a shaking hand over her face. "Has anyone spoken to Wallace?"

Beka frowns. "No. Dylan said he was still in negotiations with the Nietzscheans."

"I can't feel him," Mariyam whispers. "I can't feel..."

Freya screams, arching on the bed. Mariyam whirls around and places her hands on both sides of her daughter's face. "Freya! Oh, no!"

Freyr pulls himself up on one elbow. He reaches a hand toward his sister. "Father's...dead."

"We don't know that. How can you know that?" Beka asks grimly.

Tyr glances at her. "They know."

"Mother is the most powerful telepath of all of us." Freyr crawls over to his sister and puts his arms around her. "She knows. Go on, Mother. I'll make sure Freya's alright."

Mariyam looks at Beka. "Captain Valentine. Would you allow my other sons to bring water to our quarters for Freya?"

"Of course...but what's wrong with the water in here?" Beka asks.

Mariyam glances sidelong at Tyr and then looks away. "Nothing. They just need the...nutrients from the mineral water."

"I'll go get the boys." Harper volunteers. He dashes out the door.

Mariyam adjusts the shimmering folds of her sari as she sits on the bed. "Now, Captain Valentine...Tyr...I need to explain a bit."

"This I've got to hear." Tyr leans against the wall. His voice is desert dry.

Mariyam sighs. "What do you remember from your time on the planet, Tyr?"

"Quite a bit, actually." Tyr raises a brow. There is nothing wrong with his ability to recall, but there is no need to allow Mariyam to know exactly how much he remembers. "I remember your father was Headman of the colony. I remember your mother and some of your other relatives."

"Good." Mariyam pulls her loose hair over one slender shoulder. "The women of my family have been the ruling power on Valerus back before memory. The men. The Headman is a ceremonial position. The true ruler of Valerus is me. The consort of the female leader is always Headman."

Tyr blinks. "You mean..."

"Yes. I chose you to be Headman to lead our peop But But there were certain reservations you could not get past." A cold, malicious smile curves Mariyam's lips.

"Okay, alright, the past is history," Beka interrupts impatiently. "What do we have to do to save Dylan and clear the Nietzscheans off the planet?"

Mariyam glances from Beka to Tyr. "First, I'm going to need to wake up the members of my council."

"I think we can manage that." Beka nods.

Tyr pushes away from the wall. "Then we'll need a plan to rescue Dylan."

"This has been a long day." Beka sighs. "And it's not over yet."

TBC


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