Dealings in the Dark of Night

BY : Bebe
Category: 1 through F > Andromeda
Dragon prints: 1080
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.

Title: Dealings in the Dark of Night

Author: Bebe

Rating: NC-17

Disclaimer:  If you believe that I own them, do you also believe that I have oceanfront property in Kansas?

Spoilers: “Double Helix,” “Music of a Distant Drum,” “Star Crossed,” “It Makes a Lovely Light,” “Una Salus Victus,” “Lava and Rockets,” “And Your Heart Will Fly Away”

Feedback: Please send comments to mouse3of3@yahoo.com.

Pairing: Tyr/Rommie

Archive: At AFF. All others please ask.

Summary: Rommie wants an alliance with Tyr. At least, that’s what she says.

Author's Note: I went to look up something for another fic, and in the process ended up reading several reviews of second-season episodes, including “Lava and Rockets.” I’ve always liked the interplay between Rommie and Tyr in their scenes from L&R, and over the next few days I started jotting down the initial conversation here.

He didn’t bother raising the lights in his quarters when he let her in. His own night vision was excellent, a gift of the Musevenis, and she could no doubt see far better with her android senses, so the room remained dim when she entered. He did stand, not trusting the ship’s avatar in any of her forms and especially not when she made an unrequested late-night visit to his quarters.

Perhaps aware of his innate distrust— he made no effort to hide it— she did not pass far into the sanctuary of his room. She paused a meter from the door, a meter from him, noncommittal and apparently nonthreatening. She carried no weapons, but she would have needed none. Neither would he. Another gift of the Musevenis, his boneblades would damage the android given the opportunity, but the same opportunity of close contact would also give her the chance to damage him even barehanded with that mechanical strength. It would not do to underestimate her abilities.

Neither of them said a word for a long moment after he granted her entrance. Finally, aggrieved at the unexplained arrival when he was attempting to rest, Tyr demanded, “What do you want, ship?”

“I wanted to speak to you.”

“Obviously.”

It took a moment longer before she spoke again. He wondered if she was imitating the organics that lived within her, pretending to have to marshal the courage to do so. All it did was irritate him, the shadow of life that she existed as. “I wish to… broker an alliance between us.” It sounded rehearsed and flat.

“Is this at Dylan’s request?” He would not have been surprised. The good Commonwealth captain, wanting peace and harmony on his ship as well as between his governmental allies. Not, he suspected, that this would have been a recent request if it were. Dylan was far too busy, these last weeks, with his newest prize to notice any frictions between those who worked with him.

She shook her head, a tiny gesture, short and sharp. It matched her movements since she had entered, small and agitated, as if she were constrained by some other force than her own impulses. “Dylan didn’t ask me to. I doubt he knows that I’m here at all.” At least this statement brought some kind of tone to her words, even if it was shame.

“To ‘broker an alliance’? I would think he would approve.”

“Not the way I want to broker it.”

And that was intriguing. For her to be here at Dylan’s behest or in a way he would approve was one matter. For her to be here when the captain would not approve was entirely different. He shifted closer, such a tiny distance, but one that she would realize was interest. He was, but not enough to move within easy distance of contact lest this be a trap. “And how would you broker this alliance, the manner of which he would not approve?”

Rommie did not respond immediately. Again, she seemed to hesitate, to corral her resolve before her statement. When she did speak, it was not a direct answer to his question. “Dylan has… kept things from you, things that, whether or not they belong to you in the universe outside my hull, you brought on board and wished to lay claim to. Correct?”

“Yes. And you know this.” He had to keep his voice level, though what physiological change his anger engendered she could no doubt read. But then, she had to be aware of his emotions regarding the Progenitor and Dylan’s theft of it. “What of it?”

“I…” And she took a deep breath, an affectation that he had noticed before. “In the nature of— of a treaty between us, I want to give you the chance to take something from him.”

He scoffed. “Unless you can return what he took, the only thing of his that I would want is the ship itself.” He was prepared for that to be the end of it, for her to be disappointed and leave quietly or to be infuriated and leave loudly, but in either case for her to leave.

He was not prepared for her to stand a little straighter and say, “You could take me.” She did not say anything else.

“One android is a poor substitute for a ship, let alone the remains. If that’s all you can offer, you can leave now.” He started to turn, suspecting that she would not let it lie at that, and he was correct. Before he even faced back to his bed, she spoke again.

“A ‘poor substitute’? An ally is a poor substitute? Someone who would provide support for your arguments, favorable statistics—”

“All of which is very nice, but also very nebulous,” he interrupted. “And it all depends on your favor holding after this discussion, which is an interesting concept that would become more interesting when my inclinations conflict with Dylan’s.” He turned back nonetheless, wanting to see what she would offer next.

“Not all of it. I’m also offering me.” She stepped closer, his senses going on alert at the proximity. He had to fight the urge to step back and keep this discussion at a safe distance, and managed it only with difficulty. “This body, for whatever you want as long as it doesn’t endanger my captain or me.”

That did take him aback, mentally if not physically. It was a dangerous offer to make, and the potential for abuse was staggering. Whatever he wanted could encompass many things, even with her caveat. “And why,” he asked, when he had recovered from the surprise, “would you offer me you? What benefit is there for you for me to use you in any way I see fit?” He made his voice silky, even as he contemplated what he could use her for, what would be possible with the android on his side and at his command. There must be a catch, some reason she would give him this much power with so few checks on it, and when she hesitated something clicked within his mind. “I wonder…” He said it slowly, as if it had never occurred to him to contemplate what the ship “felt” with Molly’s presence, beyond mere loyalty for her captain conflicting with non-military commands. Only an unobservant fool would not have noticed the way the android looked at the captain, nor have wondered at her response since the woman’s arrival. “I wonder why you ask me now. Is this a direct result of our good captain’s conquest?” She still didn’t answer, not even meeting his eyes now. She seemed focused on his chest, the easiest place on his body for her to see while not actively dropping her gaze. “If it is, then why are you here? Why are you not with the boy? Surely he’d be more than willing to cooperate without this— this farce of a negotiation.”

Rommie at last responded. “I already have his loyalty.” Now she looked up, visibly angry at the goading. No doubt she was happier with the thin illusion that this was a political play rather than the revenge of a woman scorned.

“And therefore you don’t think that you need to control him with vague promises?” Tyr stepped forward, forcing her to arch her neck to see his eyes. “This method of yours, one means to two ends: I understand why you would offer someone else your body, but you would even begin to think it would engender more loyalty than you already have why?”

She didn’t balk this time. “Would you deny at least the possibility of hesitation over crossing or endangering someone willing to support and please you?”

“Yes.” He found it interesting that her face did not fall at his response. It was such a basic way that a Nietzschean male would react, though, that perhaps she had anticipated it. Even if he were to undertake this proposition, if he were to have her as a theoretical ally, she would not be immune to his need to protect himself and his possible genetic legacy, a need greater than any agreement of peace or exchange of favors that they could broker between them. If she failed to understand that, however, he did not feel beholden to educate her; having dealt with Nietzscheans both before the Fall and after, it was her responsibility to learn from their actions what their priorities were.

The more he thought of this idea, as ludicrous as it had initially seemed, it began to take on more depth. For the price of a small-scale, petty, private revenge at the captain on the ship’s part, he would know that she truly resented Dylan enough, for his sexual habits if nothing else, to take some small action against him. This agreement of theirs would be open to possibilities, rife with opportunities to press his advantage. To have her, at least some of the time, support his side of the innumerable small debates over their actions… And he was not above noticing that it would be possible to play on those programmed emotions of hers. It had indeed been foolish of the ship’s designers to give her emotion, and more foolish to give her not just loyalty and love but the ability to transfer the loyalty and lash out at love betrayed. If he were to build on this carefully, delicately, if he were to appear to cultivate some sort of affection or concern for her, he could possibly over time convince her to transfer her own affection to him.

The idea did have merit. If he tempered his own expectations, kept in mind that this could be a ruse at any time to tease out his own subversive plans, it might work in his favor. At a minimum, he could satisfactorily relieve some of the discomfort of being a male of reproductive age with no mates, and do so with no chance of mixed-blood or inferior offspring resulting. Perhaps, just perhaps, it would not be a completely foolish plan of action, as long as he kept his guard up. Accordingly, he said, “While I doubt your overtures will make any difference to my dedication to this ship and crew, by all means try to convince me otherwise.”

Her eyes widened, but other than that she made no sign of hearing him. Perhaps she hadn’t been entirely dedicated to the prospect of having to follow through? He added, more harshly than any of his preceding statements, “Go if you don’t want to. This is your proposal, not mine, and I don’t want an unwilling partner.”

“I’m not unwilling. I’m just surprised.” Rommie moved back a step, something that he would have seen as surrender except for her hands going to her top. It was one of the High Guard ones, with a panel across the chest, and she quickly released the hidden clasps. He kept watching as she opened the central zipper underneath before shrugging it off and tossing it onto a nearby chair, unastonishingly perfectly aimed. Underneath all she wore was a utilitarian bra— he wouldn’t have been surprised to find that it was military-issue— which she immediately unfastened. She tossed that, as well. She looked up at him as if daring him to do or say something. When he didn’t respond, instead examining the portion of her body now revealed, she started to cross her arms over her chest.

“No.” He stepped forward and caught her wrists before she completed the motion and held them away. Her upper torso was indeed impressive, mimicking a Human woman’s even down to the faint suggestion of real muscle under the skin. It might have been connective material she possessed anyway, as he had not read her schematics, but it was still masterfully done. It was a shame he wouldn’t be able to tell Harper that. He considered, when she shifted uncomfortably and the faint glow of the starscape played against her skin, that he should keep the lights off; with only the slightest light available it was impossible to see that she was an android rather than a Human. He could still hear the almost-inaudible clicks and whirrs underneath her skin when she moved, could still smell the silicone and metal odor that marked her as artificial, but the grain of her skin felt almost human and he couldn’t easily determine the artificial nature of her eyes, more obvious even than Beka’s contact lenses, in the dimness.

He released her hands. “The rest of it, off.” He wanted to see if she was indeed committed. To get this far… He suspected that she would not be a deliberate tease, but at the same time this was a dangerous arrangement she was suggesting, one that left her vulnerable. For her to change her mind now was not out of the question.

She shook her head. “Not until you do, too.” She glanced down at the shorts he was wearing, the first thing that had been to hand when she had requested entry to his quarters. He had been in bed and had not anticipated the need for nightclothes. Apparently, then, she did have that concern about being in a vulnerable position. He inclined his head in acknowledgement and slid them down.

This time the glance down was not quick. He wouldn’t have thought that she felt the need to examine him personally, given that she was the mostly-omniscient ship, but the circumstances had changed. When her eyes made it back up, he raised an eyebrow expectantly, and this time she crouched to unfasten the boots she wore. She stepped backwards out of them as she stood back up, and it took only a moment longer for her to unfasten the pants and slide them together with whatever underwear she wore over her hips. They quickly joined the top and bra on the chair. As she did so, he surveyed her fully-revealed body. Again, her lower half was skillfully constructed. He could almost fool himself into thinking, visually, that she was wholly organic, and he felt the first faint stirrings of interest at the sight of her naked body. He wondered if she realized.

Whether she did or not, she must have decided that to forge ahead was the best plan. Perhaps she wanted to waylay any further thoughts of her as unwilling or timid? Whatever the reason, she stepped forward and slid her hands up to his throat. He tensed, not sure what she was going to do; android strength could put an end to his life quickly enough, and he did not want the intimacy of kissing her. She did neither, however. Her fingers continued past his airway and around his neck to tangle in the braids at the base of his skull, and when she pulled him down it was to press her lips to his neck and suck surprisingly gently at the skin. When he relaxed, a miniscule amount, she scraped her teeth over the spot. It was not hard enough to break the skin or even to bruise, but the mild violence of the gesture caught his attention and made his heart beat just that much quicker.

She must have been aware of the almost-violence inherent in Nietzschean mating, had to have been with her next move. She moved her mouth down his collarbone and nipped a little harder, then lower still, and this time with force behind the bite. At the same time she slipped her hands from behind his neck and dropped them to his waist, where she dug the nails in. That could potentially leave a mark, as could the next bite, the hardest yet, but he noticed that she was only doing so in places that would be covered by clothing. Intentional or not, he approved; there was no need to let the others know of this through something so small. Frankly, he intended for them not to know at all.

Whatever the intent behind the location, the biting and the nails were working. Warmth was gathering at the base of his abdomen, and when she shifted her weight from one foot to the other his rising erection brushed her stomach. The brief contact incited a new surge of warmth, but she seemed to hesitate again. At least, her fingers tightened against his skin, and the pressure did not seem intentional.

He didn’t acknowledge it. Instead he said, in tones designed not to startle her in the quiet of the room, “Perhaps we should move to the bed?” Rommie nodded and let go. He waited for her to move first, though, and after a second she stepped around him, her footsteps padding quietly against the plating. He listened until he heard the bed’s faint sigh of protest before turning.

She was lying in the center of the bed on her back, hands under her head as she stared at the ceiling. Hers was an unnatural stillness, and he was relieved when she shifted her eyes to look at him as he approached. He needed few reminders of her nature. He crawled onto the bed and settled on his knees, between hers. At least now he could catch a faint smell of something different, faintly artificial still but with the hints of salts and sharpness he would expect from an aroused woman. Harper was indeed thorough. Tyr wondered who or what she was thinking of, to engender a reaction from her own body. He appreciated it nonetheless, not having been disseminating when he told her he didn’t want an unwilling partner.

With that in mind, he tested her with a single finger, moving slowly, and paused when she stiffened. “Relax,” he murmured, doubting that telling her to do so would work. The AI never followed his orders without at least a whisper of distrust. She didn’t relax, but didn’t protest either, though her lips parted as if she were trying to decide whether to argue. He moved more slowly still, not trying anything other than that one finger, moving and retreating. She was damp to the touch, though not as much as he would prefer. “Close your eyes if you must.” She did, the first thing she’d ever done obediently for him and probably the last. If it were easier for her to pretend that he was not the one with her, easier for her to escape into her fantasies, then so be it. He was deluding himself as well, trusting the dim light to hide what he didn’t want to see and pretending that the faint tick of something where a Human’s solar plexus would be was a heartbeat.

She did relax somewhat, though it took a moment, and remained so even when he added a second finger. He wondered vaguely what she was thinking of: her beloved captain? The sociopathic android from the year before? Whatever her preference was, he was not inclined to argue, as the slip of his fingers within her became easier. As for himself, he didn’t need to rely on memories of Freya or Medea, nor on thoughts of anyone else. It was easy to focus on just the feel of her beneath his hand and the urge tugging beneath his navel. It had been so long since he had been with Freya, time passing and making it difficult to be without her, that the need to relieve himself had taken on a life of his own and was now pressing for his attention, making it hard to remember that being callous or rough with the android might help his short-term desires but infinitely complicate the long-term ones. It was with effort that he reined himself in.

Eventually, however, the need became more pressing, and he withdrew his fingers and pressed them to Rommie’s pelvis. Her eyes opened at the new contact. She looked cautious still, but not as unnerved as before, and again she didn’t protest as he positioned them both. Carefully he tilted her hips up, shifted her knees over his thighs, and when he leaned over her to brace one hand by her shoulder she cast her eyes in that direction but said nothing. It was when he positioned himself with his other hand, the blunt tip pressing against the definite wetness, that her whole body stiffened up again, the anxiety visible even with so little light. He stopped, though his own body was insisting that he continue, and a thought that he had not previously entertained and should have occurred to him then. “Have you done this before?”

Her gaze skittered over his. “No.” The one word was incredibly quiet, so much so that he barely heard it.

Mentally he cursed. Tyr hadn’t anticipated the thought that she might be inexperienced, having assumed that she would have been with the other avatar, and now… This was more responsibility than he really wanted and he wasn’t sure why she would have chosen him for this. She had, however, and he did not want to stop now. “You need to tell me if this becomes… uncomfortable.” He lacked a better word, not knowing if the android had been designed to feel, as it were, physical pain.

“I can always disengage the receptors in the area.” She was still refusing to meet his eyes. “I wouldn’t experience anything that way.”

“No.” The statement was abrupt, reactionary, but he realized the truth after it came out. “Your body can be an asset. I see no reason to damage it unnecessarily by ignoring discomfort and continuing,” he explained. Finally, finally she looked at him, probably checking to make sure that he wasn’t lying. He did not worry, knowing that he wasn’t even with the rest of his reasoning. “Furthermore, you are risking as much if not more than I by this. You should have some benefit. If you can’t feel anything, you won’t get any.” He waited a beat longer to give her a chance to tell him to stop or to argue, but she stayed silent. She was still tense, though.

He pushed slightly, pressing the smallest distance into her, and her eyes closed again. He didn’t mind that now, knowing that her attention to her own fantasy would make his progress easier. Another gentle push and her lips parted silently; a third and he was sliding into her, agonizingly slowly. She was so tight around him that he could do nothing else. It was just shy of an actual ache for him, the way she gripped him from either nerves or the build of her artificial body, and she could not have been enjoying it, but still she said nothing until he was fully within her, fighting the impulse to thrust hard and fast. Trying to distract himself, he wondered briefly if the boy had designed her for his own specifications, with her size relative to his. When he didn’t move after a moment, her body did loosen around and under him, and she was still tight but less uncomfortably so. Still moving at the same slow pace, he pulled back until just the head was in her, bracing his other hand opposite the first before pushing back in. She stayed not exactly relaxed but close, and he took the opportunity to add more of the speed that he wanted to his movements.

The depth of his own need took him by surprise. She was accommodating enough and it had been so long since Freya, longer since Medea, and the rapidity of his own movements crept up until he was thrusting forcefully, unable to stop. She didn’t tell him to, either, instead pushing her hips higher to meet his strokes better, one of the harder ones forcing a tiny “ah” sound from her lips. That was more than enough to derail him entirely, the sound so much like a Nietzschean woman that he couldn’t hold back any longer. The sensation shot through him from the base of his abdomen out through his body and to the ends of his fingers and toes with the intensity of it, making him shudder helplessly into Rommie, and he barely caught himself from collapsing onto her. It took far more effort to control his shaking body than it should have.

He had closed his eyes at the height of it, and now he opened them to see hers open as well, studying him in a vaguely disapproving fashion. He felt a wave of shame at having displeased her in some way before reminding himself firmly that she was not a mate, not even Human, let alone Nietzschean. The boundaries had blurred slightly when that little noise of excitement had escaped her a few moments before. “Are you… well?”

“Yes.” Her expression did not change. “That was fairly brief. Do you know that females can orgasm, too?”

He shrugged dismissively, no small feat when he was supporting his weight on his hands. “I haven’t had a mate in a year. And you are aware that Nietzscheans have a relatively fast recovery period, yes?”

“I’m aware of most aspects of humanoid physiology.” Her apparent displeasure did not abate, possibly because he was softening inside her as they spoke. If she were that familiar, however, she should be aware that that could be corrected soon with the appropriate stimulation. “And you did, after all, say that I should have some benefit with this arrangement.”

“Then you know that if you give me a few minutes to recover I can and will see to your pleasure.” He made no effort to keep the dryness from his tone. He had not intended for the initial encounter to come to an end so quickly, but he did not appreciate the insinuation that he would not at all take steps to ensure her satisfaction. A Nietzschean mate she may not have been, but they had broached this tentative possibility of mutual advantage, and he intended to carry through at least the initial steps, the better for her to trust him a marginal amount. With that in mind, he asked quietly, “What would you want from me?”

Rommie blinked. Had she not anticipated the question? “What do you mean?”

Not lack of anticipation, then, but lack of clarity. “Do you have any preferences, anything you would want me to do or not do?”

“I…” She trailed off, looking thoughtful. He also suspected that she was examining the degree to which she was vulnerable in this, especially given that she eventually said, “I want to control it.”

“Very well.” It was an unsurprising request, given that she was under the geis of the crew’s orders every moment otherwise. He also wondered if it was an attempt to appeal to his nature, in that a Nietzschean woman would have far more control over mating than he had allowed her so far. It was working; the hint of that relationship sent interest through him, unwilling though it may have been with the AI, and he could feel the heat beginning to gather again at his groin. “What should I do?”

She seemed to consider him for just a moment longer, but then without comment she slid her hands out from behind her head and started to push herself up. It took him by surprise, but he adjusted quickly, moving one hand to the small of her back and assisting her progress whether or not it was needed. As she moved, he did as well, straightening until he was sitting back on his heels and she was astride him, neither of them having let his growing erection slip from her body. He kept his hand at her back even then; it was highly unlikely that she would need it for support or balance, but the gesture aided his own self-delusion. She did not tell him to remove it, possibly because her hands were on his shoulders for, he suspected, much the same reasons.

They were close now, so much so that he could pick out some of the blue streaks against the inky black of her hair even with this dimness. With no way to know where she wanted it, he let his free hand drop to her thigh, his thumb brushing the inner curve, close to the join of her hip. He was surprised to feel her ripple around him in response, some aspect of the casual touch furthering her arousal and in turn hastening his own. Reflexively he looked down, knowing that he couldn’t see much even with his night vision, but what he did see was more than enough: her small, dusky nipples were millimeters away from his chest, a deep breath away from contact, and her breasts framed the suggestive shadow where their bodies met. With that glance his focus sharpened, his awareness suddenly, acutely of the feel of her over him, around him, and immediately sensation surged through him. He was as ready as if he had not spent himself already merely minutes before, and startled by the strength of his own reaction to even the obscured visual.

He pulled his gaze away with effort, looking back up to Rommie’s eyes. Hers glittered in the dark as she regarded him. As if that were a signal, she closed her own and moved, the first shift in her balance tentative. As he’d thought, she placed almost no weight on her hands with the motion, but he was quickly distracted from that revelation by the motion itself. She was still tight around him, something that he was beginning to believe was an aspect of her physiology rather than a reflection of her response to him specifically, but that was almost negated by the slickness inside her. She was wet now, from his fulfilled urges and from her own unsatisfied desire. He stayed perfectly still, unwilling to do more than feel as she leaned forward slightly and rose again before sinking back down. That seemed to appeal to her, a tiny shiver running through her body, and she repeated it, setting up a quick, smooth rhythm. Her breasts were against him now, brushing his chest with every stroke.

Tyr closed his own eyes, the better to indulge in his own fantasy. It was much easier to pretend that she was a fertile mate determined to wring a child from him instead of a sterile android when he removed sight from the equation entirely. Would that he could dull his other senses as easily! He took a long, slow breath and focused on the pace she set, hoping that the feel of her, the faint salt scent, the wet sound of their bodies sliding against each other would be enough to balance what was missing, the heartbeat and quick respiration of a Nietzschean woman. It was aided, at that moment, by a gasping sob escaping her throat before she sped up, just a small amount more. He groaned at the change, the faster pace bringing his own need to climax again to the fore, and he had barely realized that holding out for hers might be more difficult at this pace when the grip her body had on his tightened. He groaned again, this time because he could feel all of her reaction rippling around him and commanding a response.

He didn’t want to stop, not after that, and when she slowed again he slid his hands to her hips. Without pausing or explaining, without letting her break the rhythm entirely, he began moving her on him at a faster speed than she had reached. It was rough, jerky, but she didn’t protest. Instead she leaned harder on his shoulders and let him manipulate her, pulling her down onto him hard enough that if she were organic she might bruise later. It was only moments before he reached the point of no return and drove her down one final time, his fingers digging into her skin as he came in her.

She let him stay that way for a minute before lifting her hands from his shoulders. He felt it rather than saw it, his eyes still closed when she eased her thumbs under his fingers and started loosening the iron hold he had on her. He let go immediately, opening his eyes as her weight shifted. She was standing up directly from her crouch over him, the sudden rush of cool air disconcerting as he slipped from inside her, and he watched silently as she walked to the edge of the bed and hopped lightly down. She didn’t say a word, either, instead disappearing into the small bathroom.

He stayed where he was, assuming that she was cleaning up and did not want him to follow. It was bare seconds later that she came back out and went directly to her clothes. He finally spoke when she balanced on one foot to draw on the underwear. “Shall I assume that you’re satisfied?”

“For the moment, yes.” She picked up the pants next. She wasn’t looking at him again, studying the material she manipulated as if it held cosmic secrets. “Does this mean that we have an agreement?”

“I believe it means that we can find a workable arrangement.” He hadn’t promised anything and had no intention to unless he was pressed. The session had been pleasant, but nonetheless nothing that he would bargain his livelihood or goals for. The key was whether he could manipulate her this way: her response to his actual touch had been adequate, but he was less than impressed by her reaction overall. He would have to improve it if he wanted her to be swayed to his loyalty, emotionally if not militarily. “You have convinced me at least that there may be some advantages to having an avatar aboard.”

She zipped the vest, having continued dressing while he spoke. “And there may be some advantages to keeping you alive and with us, as well. We’ll have to discuss actual terms later, since I have to be on Command deck shortly.” She picked up her boots and the door slid open behind her, letting in far too much light for his eyes. Before he could think of an adequate response, let alone adjust his vision completely, she was gone, and he was alone in the dark.

“Well,” he murmured to the empty room, “this should be interesting.” As he lay back, he considered that he might have made steps forward in this hour, but he may also have been solely a means to the ship’s own ends. He did not approve of the possibility.

The End



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