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Andromeda: Filet Mignon (MF,inter)
by Argimpasa

Tyr glared down at the First Officer's workstation and jabbed at the readout
with unnecessary force. He was frustrated, annoyed … what do the humans call
it ... cranky.

It doesn't do for the last known surviving Kodiak Alpha to be cranky. But he
couldn't help it, even his clothes felt uncomfortable today. He yanked down
the zipper of his vest and threw the offending piece of clothing onto the
Weapons station beside him.

He glanced over at the helm for at least the thousandth time since the start
of their shift. She still didn't look any different nor behave any different.
Still the same Captain Valentine he had known for over a year. She did not
look like a female who had lain the most powerful ruler in the known worlds.
It still grated even now, a month later, that fop Charlemagne Bolivar had
been granted access to places that Tyr Anasazi had not even allowed himself
to dream of sinking into. Using and leaving was not what he had been taught.

What had the Jaguar been taught? There had not been human slaves in the royal
households for nearly a century. And yet Tyr could still see that carefree
face and swagger, no undue concern for this transgression into Kodiak
territory. And that talk about loyalty still ... concerned him.

"Prepare for slipstream in three, two, one -"

Tyr studied himself unconsciously as the unreality of slipstream hit. He
continued to watch Beka. She would have that small smile on her lips; her
eyes would be alive and wild. She was in her element here. Here she was
above them all as she effortless manoeuvred the ship along the tangled
thread.

"Exiting slipstream; mark -- three, two, one." The ship shifted out into
normal reality. "Ok boys and girls, we'll reach Infinity Atoll in just under
forty-five minutes." She finished punching in the last coordinates and
slipped free of the helm. "Last one in the water is a Nightsider."

Beka glanced at him and smiled; practically dancing up to him. He was sure he
saw her pause, hesitate, her pupils were large and black as her eyes trailed
swiftly up his naked upper torso. He resisted the urge to call her on it, a
swift sting for her foolish attraction to Nietzschean men. But Charlemagne's
voice still echoed in his head ... nectar ... honey ... loyalty ... foolish!

"You comin' down? ‘Catch a few rays'."

"I thought you did not like planets."

"Well, I make an exception for the Atoll. Even I can't complain about sandy
beaches and warm salty water. You should come-"

"Yeah. You should," Harper said stepping into command. He raised his hand and
'high-fived' Beka. "Infinity Atoll! Hot sand and hot babes as far as the eye
can see."

He raised his hand again to ‘high-five' Tyr, but the Nietzschean just glared
at him until he thought better of it and dropped his hand.

"I am staying on board ship." Tyr said turning away from them and glancing at
the panel under his hand.

"Oh come on, Tyr. There's babes of all shapes and colours even Nietzschean
ones. You can do the posing thing and maybe you'll find yourself a wife."

"What part of 'I am staying onboard ship' did you not understand?" Tyr
growled, and Harper unconsciously took a step back.

"Geez, you're cranky."

Beka rolled her eyes at the two of them then turned toward the door and
Harper followed. "The Maru's leaving in fifty-five minutes, Tyr, if you
change your mind." She put her arm around Harper. Their happy chatter
trailed out of his hearing.

Alone on command his thoughts drifted back the aftermath of the Delegate
Celebration when he had rashly confronted Beka about her liaison with
Bolivar.

Her smile hadn't diminished by the presence of nearly two metres of
Nietzschean leaning against her door. Not even by his best scowl.

She had hiccupped. 'Beware of Jaguars baring champagne.' She had giggled,
carefree.

"This is not funny Captain Valentine. You have been reckless."

"Tyr. That is the point. A little danger adds to the fun. You can't honestly
believe that I'm naïve in my choice of lays." She seemed suddenly sober. "I
like them with an edge but I'm not stupid enough to choose someone I can't
handle."

"If you think you can handle the Jaguar, you are very much mistaken."

"Funny I feel like I'm in one piece. Matter of fact I feel great. Best lay
I've had in ages."

"Captain Valentine, Nietzschean's do not engage in casual sex. He has not
done this simply for the pleasure of your company."

"Well I had him for the pleasure of his. I think we were both satisfied with
the arrangement. Why must you always make more of my sexual encounters than
there is?"

"Because this is not some freighter captain met by chance in a drift port,
this was the ruler of one of the most powerful alliances in the known worlds
and a Nietzschean. I know Bolivar did not copulate with you for simply the
pleasure of it. I find it improbable that you would not see opportunities in
this ... incident." Then it occurred to him that Dylan had told her the
relic. How could she resist that? "What better than to buy your way into the
royal family of one of the most powerful rulers of the known worlds than with
the bones of Drago Musevini? To have access to his talents and decadence, day
in and day out. A fine haul for a captain of the glorious Eureka Maru."

He knew how furiously loyal she was to her crew. She had shown on occasion
that he had become included. It had been part of the equations he had
calculated to subtly control and coerce her. He knew that she was attracted
to him. He had used it to manipulate her on many occasions. The thought that
it was not him as a person but his Neitzscheanness that had attracted her
had not been considered. The possibility that another male of his kind would
show interest had been too preposterous to consider. But one had and now he
was forced to ponder the strength of her loyalty.

These thoughts had whipped through his mind as he still scrutinized the
tightly controlled look on Beka's face. It was quite evident that Captain
Valentine had been thinking many things. Her features had became more rigid
then slipped into a harsh smile; her eyes chips of grey ice.

"You now that hadn't occurred to me" She had stepped well into his personal
sphere, her eyes locking fearlessly on his own. "Definitely something to
think about."

That hadn't been what he was expecting. He had wanted her to rebut him. Laugh
at the suggestion. He needed to talk to Dylan make sure that Storage Bay
Fifteen was indeed locked down. And that the ship kept it heavily monitored.
If Beka set her mind to gaining the holy relic that she would get it. She had
abilities that he had failed to quantify. This was just one more thing to
prove she was able to slip by his reasoning and surprise him. He hated
surprises.

Beka had ignored him and opened her door, but he had been right behind her.
"Oh Tyr. We had fun, end of story."

"So you were attracted to him because he had an 'edge'. Is that why you
prefer the company of thieves."

"Leydon wasn't just a thief, Tyr. He's Schroedenger's Cat! One of the best.
He nearly out-conned me!" She turned away. "He was handsome, cunning and
deadly. Just the way I like them."

"And you feel that Charlemagne Bolivar fits in that category?"

"Let me see." She held up here hand and ticked off, "handsome, cunning,
deadly. Yes, I guess I do."

"So this is all a game to you?" He realized he had stepped closer, imposing
his height on her.

She stared boldly back at him, so fearless. "No, Tyr it is not a game. This
is a deadly universe and Dylan's little Commonwealth, should he ever achieve
it, will do little to change it. The most important thing is survival ... but
that doesn't mean you shouldn't have fun while you can."

"Just fun. With so cynical a view as this why do you not seek to perpetuate
yourself? If you truly believe you will die tomorrow why have you not bred?"

"Bred? Yeah right. Even if motherhood appealed to me why would I bring others
into this universe? When life is nothing but the struggle to survive." She
turned back to him hands on her hips.

"Beka." Her name was out of his lips before he could pull it back. "In all
times life is the struggle to survive."

"Yeah. yeah. I know, everyday life is war for you. Well, not here. The day I
can fly the Maru from end to end of the Known Worlds without getting shot at,
I'll retro fit a nursery out of my armoury. Until then, I'm in it for the
thrill." She again heedlessly turned her back on him and stomped across the
room. She turned and stalked back to him until she was mere centimetres away.
Her body held erect, vibrating with anger. So fierce and wild she had struck
a primal cord; setting his nerves humming. ‘So you can take your tight
condescending ass out of here and -"

It had been this moment that Charlemagne had sauntered into the room. He
gave them a languid smile. "Well aren't you a fast one, Beka. One Nietzschean
wasn't enough for you today."

She seemed too relax slightly and stepped away. "Actually, I was trying to
get him to drop the lecture on how never to trust a Nietzschean. Usually it
only takes a seductive smile to get his pure genes running out the door."

Tyr had bridled at the comment and couldn't keep from scowling as the
Archduke draped himself casually upon a chair. It was all he could do the
stifle a challenging growl. "What do you want Bolivar?"

"I came here to visit Beka and find you convincing her not to trust me. That
is very unjust is it not?" His pout turned into a smile. "After all we are
all allies here."

"Jaguar allies have not served me well in the past, so you will pardon me
if I caution my fellow crew members about becoming too confident in your
company."

"Well, you are too late there, Kodiak. I'd say the dear Captain is quite
comfortable in my presence."

Tyr, having placed himself between Beka and Charlemagne, had not caught the
deepening look of annoyance darkening Beka's face. "Okay, that's it. Both of
you out. Go do your posturing somewhere else."

She had that tone. The tone of a mother chastising that reached an engrained
response in both Nietzscheans and had them leaving with little protest. In
the hall Bolivar had said unabashedly, "For a minute I forgot she wasn't
Nietzschean," then shrugged and sauntered off.

* * *

Tyr came back to the present. The archduke was charming and insidious. He had
to be planning something that involved Beka. He looked down at the First
Officer's workstation and called up every file the Andromeda and Maru had on
Charlemagne Bolivar.

His research was interrupted by Beka's voice over the comm. "Hey Tyr, last
flight to Honolulu Beach." He punched her up on the vid. She appeared on the
big screen just in time for him to catch her reaching up over the camera for
part of the systems check. This gave him a full view of her long lean form
clad only in a bright aqua-green bikini. Her requisite black found only in
the sheer sarong tied loosely about her hips. Despite her slimness her hips
could certainly bear children easily. He couldn't believe he had disclosed
that thought, even to himself.

He collected himself and looked back at his research before she settled and
looked at her screen. "I have a strong mind, Captain Valentine. Not easily
given to flights of whimsy. Enjoy your trip. Tyr out."

He caught, 'We're going to have a talk-' before the signal terminated. "Yes,
we will Captain Valentine," he told the air.

The ship's persona appeared on the main view screen. "Were you talking to
me?"

"No," Tyr replied without looking up.

"Hmm"

He knew now that he had drew the Ship's direct attention so he sent the
information he had been scanning to his private station in his room. "Ship,
keep a trace on our little party of pleasure seekers and let me know if there
are any anomalies in your readings." He turned and only glanced at the Ship's
hologram as she appeared on the back tier of command.

"I am already doing that," she informed his retreating back.

Tyr reclined further and contemplated his summarized results of his research.
While he mulled over these findings, he occupied himself by reviewing the
last few days of video logs from his and the Andromeda's surveillance
cameras in Storage Bay Fifteen. One of his screens slit into ten windows as
the Andromeda's logs ran synchronously. He ran his own four cameras' footage
through a parser. There was never any movement in the bay, not even
maintenance droids were allowed in. The scanning program stopped with a
warning chime.

Three of his vids went to static. He glanced at the ten views from the Ship's
log there was no change. He looked back at his one remaining feed.

Tyr froze. He watched as the small iris shield covering a venting duct was
lowered on a rope to the floor. A wheat-blonde head emerged clutching
something in her teeth. Slowly Beka squeezed free of the narrow duct. She
flipped neatly around and surveyed the room. Tyr could just make out that
it was a scanner she held in her teeth. He let out a slow breath as Beka
slid down the rope.

He glanced again at the Ship's logs - nothing. His eyes snapped back to his
remaining vid. Had the Ship complied or had Harper been in on this?

It took all of Tyr's focus to pick up any sound in the recording. She wore
soft-soled black boots that separated her first two toes from the rest. She
walked calmly to the only item in the room, the sarcophagus of Drago
Musevini.

Tyr's heart raced but he couldn't bring himself to fast-forward and quickly
determine the outcome. He was glued to the recording, watching every nuance
of Beka's performance.

She knelt by the sarcophagus and ran the scanner over every centimetre of
the metal box. He would have sneered a dismissal if it had been anyone but
a member of this crew. They were the most resourceful creatures he had ever
met. He had little doubt that little anaemic scanner was scanning through
the unscannable.

Beka scanned and rescanned the surface of the box. Not as someone who was not
receiving data but as someone who did not believe her readings. Finally she
sat back abruptly on her heels and stared at the most sacred, only sacred,
object in Nietzschean thought.

Beka ran the scanner over the locking mechanism again and looked at the
results. She paused and ran her hand almost reverently in the air just
skimming the coffin's surface. She stood slowly, studying the long box
before turning back toward her escape.

Tyr was afraid of what he would see on her features. Greed he expected, or
the wide smile that Beka had when a challenge was presented her. He was not
prepared for anger and shock. 'Pissed off' could be read in the rigid cut
of her spine and the overly aggressive way she climbed the rope, her jaws
clenched where they bit down on the scanner.

Tyr waited until the duct cover was raised back up. The three blank windows
blinked into life. He resumed the parser. The rest of the log was free of
movement. He ran a check of the time-code of the logs and found no
aberrations. He controlled his breathing, surprised by the ragged sound and
the sheen of sweat that had formed on his brow.

Too many questions formed in his head. Why was she angry? Dylan must not
have told her. It had been his gaff in a fit of passion that had set this
in motion. Had she help? It should have taken months of planning on her own
to get through the thirty-eight traps and alarms he had deployed in one pass.
What would she do now? He processed these thoughts and formed them into a
rational line of inquiry as he stood and shook the tension from his body.

Run. It was how he thought best.

He had run the corridors of several levels before making his way to the First
Officer's Quarters -- rooms Beka rarely used for anything more than a shower.
The room still held memories of their quarrel over the Jaguar. Tyr knew if
there were any traces of her personal activities they would be concealed on
the Maru. He considered searching her room anyway but considered it to likely
to draw the ships attention. He would wait until the Ship's internal
surveillance was down for maintenance.

Tyr stepped from the shower and grabbed a towel. Beka-sleuthing and his
findings on the activities of the Sabra-Jaguar Archduke were forcing his
hand. He scrubbed mercilessly at his back with the towel. He hated being
forced into such narrow options. Plan A definitely had its benefits but
it would greatly affect his future plans. Plan B brought bile to his
throat. He would not sacrifice his future, but he did not want its price
to be the life of Beka Valentine.

He stepped out of the bathroom in a cloud of steam. His skin still glistened
with moisture despite his rough treatment. Tyr gathered up his favourite net
shirt and the lightest of his leather pants. "Ship, locate Captain Valentine
and ready a slipfighter. Contact Honolulu Beach flight control and get
landing permission."

Grabbing a small leather knapsack he tucked in a few supplies including his
flexi on Bolivar. He finished dressing with the addition of a knife in each
boot, a full bandoleer of ammunition and shuriken, and a single gauss pistol.

"Tyr." The Ship's hologram appeared beside him. "Your fighter is ready in
tube one. Captain Valentine is in Honolulu Gardens. The co-ordinates are
350.675x245.786".

"Thank you." Efficiently he drew back still wet top dreads into a ponytail
samurai style and headed for the hanger.

The gardens were beautiful; the money from the tourist trade kept them well
maintained. Beka sat in a dapple of sun formed by a cascade of brilliant red
native flowers, the colour reflecting a blush upon her pale skin. She had
chosen a good location, the back of her bench protected by a thick stand of
thorn brushes, their four centimetre thorns camouflaged by shiny green leaves
and mounds of tiny cream flowers.

Tyr was about to step from his screen of palms when a large human male
stopped in front of her. "Bek! There you are! I thought I had lost you." The
man looked around and then back at her. "Mind if I sit." He didn't wait for
an answer. He reclined bringing his knee in contact with Beka's. She shifted
taking her legs out of his reach.

"Oh come on, 'Laf. We ended five years ago. I was rebounding from Bobby!
Besides I'm seeing someone."

"Is that why you sitting here all by yourself?"

"No. I'm sitting here enjoying-" she coughed on the pungent sea air, her eyes
watering slightly, "sea air. Then I'm meeting my crew. I though you and Paula
were still a thing. Didn't you buy the Howling Wind together?"

Olaf scratched at his wavy dark hair. "Nay. We spilt. She's hauling cargo for
a corp. on Sinti. The Howler's still mine. I retro fitted her for passengers
and do a milk-run through the drifts to the Atoll. The money's good and the
traffic has picked up. Apparently I have you and your new crew to thank for
my passengers new fit of hope and optimism."

Tyr watched curiously at Beka's lack of interest. He seemed a fine specimen
for a human - well-formed regular features and limbs, taller than average -
certainly a better choice for a mate than Loverboy from Pierpont Drift. But
no, her conversation wasn't easy, as he had come to expect from her. Her
laughter even seemed forced and her would-be-lover didn't seem to notice.
Again the human tried to get her to leave with him. It was getting tedious.
At least he had to agree she did look beautiful, and not as unnatural as he
would have expected under the lush canopy of flowers.

Tyr stepped from behind his cover. "Beka, you should introduce me to your
friend."

The man looked about to say something then his eyes caught Tyr's bracers and
he stood abruptly. "Leave it to you, Bek. Only you would date a Nietzschean.
I thought the Naymith was too much."

Beka held out her hand and Tyr read surprise in her eyes when he accepted
it and sat down in the now empty seat beside her. "Hey what can I say?
Handsome," she ran he hand along Tyr's thigh, "intelligent and highly
protective. What more could a girl want?" Tyr clasped her slim hand where
in rested hot on his thigh. He liked these little moments when he was free
to pretend.

"Bek, your as crazy as ever. Be seeing you."

Beka waved, "See you around 'Laf."

Once the human's footfalls had moved beyond his hearing he loosened his grip
on her hand letting her be the one to pull away. She relaxed in his company,
but withdrew her hand. Not the body signals of someone who was planning to
steal his most precious possession ... well second most. He didn't let his
thoughts drift to Tamerlane, keeping his focus of his prey. Get her to talk,
help her stay comfortable - unwary.

"You dated a Naymith?"

"Yeah, but they have that hair." She gestured to her eyebrows. "Actually, he
was boring."

"No wonder you have never chosen a mate. You have yet to seriously be
interested in a good specimen of your own species."

"My species is overrated. We've become the 'kludges' your species always
considered us."

'My species has become not much better."

"I thought maybe I had found ... never mind" She dismissed her thought with
a languid flick of her hand.

"Yes?"

"Well I thought I had found someone exceptional. Someone who would have been
right." Her cool grey eyes washed over his face then back to flowers across
from their bench. "Someone smart, cunning, handsome ..."

A brief flicker of concern tightened his chest. No she means Leydon. "So the
thief asked you to marry him."

"If he hadn't stabbed me in the back, I think I would have."

"You would have stayed on Pierpont Drift with-"

"Schroedenger's Cat. Yes. And with the Maru I would hardly be land bound.
And Leydon's position would have been a good source of clients to kept my
old rust-bucket in parts."

"You have considered this."

"Mmm." She was staring off in the distance but her hand carelessly played
with the buckle of his holster. "No, I don't think I would have. But it did
have some perks" She sighed, "I have too much invested in the Andromeda -
and now that Dylan's plan looks like it might really be working. I couldn't
leave." She patted his leg. "Besides you guys need me. It takes the both of
us to keep Dylan from running head long into idiocy."

A group of male humans came along the path their eyes sweeping appreciatively
across Beka's bikini clad form. Only when they had passed round the turn did
he realize he had placed his arm along the back of the bench, boneblades
raised like hackles. He relaxed his fist and his blades collapsed back
against his forearm.

"Leydon. Hmm. It's sad but you, Dylan and Harper are the only males who have
yet to stab me in the back." She sat up and looked at him, her languid mood
slipping away just as the wind from the water turned signalling the advance
of evening. It lifted the blonde wisps of her hair and sent a spray of goose
bumps across her shoulders. "What are you doing here, Tyr? What happen to
'I'm staying on the Ship'?"

"I have some very interesting findings about your new lover, Charlemagne
Bolivar." He reached into his knapsack and pulled out his flexi.

Beka scanned through the data "What do these people have to do with
Charlemagne or me?"

He tapped up a file. "This is a section of Heredity, the central Nietzschean
kinship database. This is a list of Charlemagne's new wives, bringing the
total to twelve." He regretted the bitterness in his voice. "Each are new
members of the Trade and Mutual Protection acts and are headed by Matriarchs
that are now married to the Jaguar Pride. This one here is very interesting.
He pointed to the last entry, and then drew up another file.

An image a beautiful woman, with large brown almond eyes and her tousled
corkscrew curls pulled off her face with a silver circlet. "She was the
leader of what little resistance movement existed on Halex before the
Sabra-Jaguar carved it out of the Drago-Kazov empire. Maya Harkenson,
President of Tar-vat-Lok."

Beka's eyebrows drew together. "She's human."

Tyr brought up another file. A long chain of glyphs curled into a spiral
on the page. "This is Howarth's gene. Camilla Howarth designed it at the
Musevini lab on Ayn Rand Station. It is an invasive gene that is the first
sign of Nietzschean blood."

"Oh. A designer label." She tried to hand the flexi back. "You still haven't
said how this effects me."

He smiled at her unassuming self-centeredness. He plucked two fly-away
strands of hair from the back of her head.

"Ow! Tyr what are you-"

He turned away and pulled the portable DNA scanner from his bag. The wind
died down fatefully as he placed the fine hairs, follicle first, onto the
sensor. He sent the results to the flexi in Beka's hand.

A new window popped up and a complex chain of glyphs spiralled across the
polymers surface. Tyr selected one name from the long list of Beka's genome
and Howarth's gene segmented from the double helix.

Beka stared blankly at the screen. "Well, that can't be from Dad's side," she
said wryly.

"As I said it is a persistent gene, it may have been in your family line
since the Commonwealth." Tyr placed the scanner back in the bag.

She turned to study him. "You think Charlemagne knew this."

"No. But he must have suspected and now you have provided ample genetic
material for him to prove his suspicions."

"You will not rest until you have proven that every sexual encounter I've
ever had was the result of my bad judgement and a risk to you and the
Andromeda. Somehow because I screwed a Nietzschean the Three Galaxies will
implode."

"Beka-" again he regretted the familiarity of using her first name.

"Tyr. I don't care if somehow Charlemagne has some grand scheme to use me to
rule the galaxy. He can't do it without my help-" She crossed her arms, her
eyes narrowing on him. "That's what this is about isn't it? You still think
I would sell out the Andromeda." She squinted again. "No, this is personal.
Tyr, what I do or don't do will have no effect on anything."

"I beg to differ. You hold sway with Dylan, the architect of the New
Commonwealth. And you have knowledge of Drag-"

"Musevini's Remains. Yes. You could hardly drop that little tidbit in my lap
and not expect my curiosity to go into overload. If it makes you happy, I've
told no one."

A cold etched his spine. He could kill her now and this threat to the relic
would not spread. Yet his hand wouldn't reach for his knife. He could move
now to plan B: slit her throat and steal her purse. He had all he needed with
him to falsify her bio-readings to the Andromeda and fake the presence of
another. No one would be the wiser. He would be free not only of the threat
of being crossed and the remains stolen, but free of the emotional baggage
that hampered his thoughts. The baggage that wrapped his chest in iron bands,
as it was now, at the thought of harm coming to Beka Valentine. No. She could
not be so easily killed not here -- not in his heart and not in his mind.

She still stared at him, wrapped in her own thoughts or studying his
traitorous expressions. How had she corrupted him? He studied her in turn.
The calculating eyes, the resolved jaw, the finely made figure, the pervasive
air of command, the strong muscular shoulders and legs, all camouflaged by
the lushness of her lips, the wild soft strands of her hair and the soft
cream of her skin. He was sure that most did not see the real Beka through
the sensuality of her surface. Everything about her screamed Nietzschean
female to him and had since she stood cold-eyed and fearless between him and
her crew on the day that they had meet. He had almost been thankful for her
flash addiction. It had been a shield he had held up to protect himself from
his growing attraction.

Damn Howarth! With this gene she could be added to Heredity. A full work-up
of her genes would decide her standing amongst the nubile females.

A sigh brought him back fully to his surroundings. She took his hand and
traced along his knuckles. When she looked up at him her expression had
softened. "Tyr I don't understand why you're so upset by all this. I haven't
questioned your loyalty since we were nearly eaten by the cetus. Why are you
questioning mine now? Haven't I saved your butt enough yet?" She looked back
down at his hand. "I thought we were friends. I trust my back to you every
day. Why can't you let go of this?"

Why indeed? Am I wrong to worry? I had trusted her at my back ... since when?
He slouched down resting his head against the bench back, holding her hand
against his chest. Beka gathered her legs under until she sat crossed legged
facing him. With her free hand she played with the still damp ends of his
hair.

Some whimsical part of his mind plucked this idyllic tableau and set it down
in Midden's third southern continent, his child holding Beka's other hand.
Could happiness now lead to contentment that would damage his future?

"What do you see in your future Captain Valentine?"

She smiled. "I haven't planned my future. I live in the here and now just to
make sure there is a future." She sighed again. "I don't have many needs,
anything more than the Maru is gravy. I'm a doer, I leave the grand-plan
making to you and Dylan. I just want to live to see them come true. I'm sure
it will not be long," she dropped her eyes, "before you're surrounded by a
dozen wives or so. And, well, Dylan's Commonwealth looks more real with every
system we visit."

It was his turn to sigh. "I wish I could so easily see that future. At this
rate Kodiak Pride will die with me."

"Is this what's bothering you, Charlemagne's new wives? The only reason they
married Bolivar is ‘cause they never had the chance to met you."

He looked at her surprised. Her face had the warmest expression he had ever
seen soften her features.

"I can see how, long-term, being part of the Andromeda's crew will serve you.
We will be written up in the history books, the bane of every Commonwealth
school child. But short term makes it sort of bleak on the marriage front.
There must be ways though. What is wrong with starting with minor Prides or
take Bolivar up on one of his sisters?"

"Charlemagne would hope to control me with such an alliance. At this point
the minor Prides will be a hindrance. If I accepted a wife they would wish
me to join their Pride. The small are too small to loose breeding females."

Beka would not meet his eyes during this topic; she just kept worrying at the
ends of his hair. The wind picked up again causing her to shiver. She slid
away and put her feet back into the flat thong sandals. "We should find the
others. We were supposed to met on the beach in Pavilion six."

Pavilion Six turned out to be a synthetic interpretation of a native ancient
Earth structure. Tyr nearly cringed at the volume of noise thundering from
the open building. In the midst of the mostly human crowd, Harper was
'dancing' like an insane muppet.

Beka touched his arm and mimed ‘getting a drink' and ‘do you want something.'
He shook his head and warily watched her disappear into the crowd. He leaned
back against a thick plastic tree trunk that made up one of the structure's
supports.

Tyr was ready to go in search of her by the time her blonde head appeared at
the edge of the crowd. She was carrying two drinks, so she had to nod toward
the beach. At the edge of the sand she chose a seat where their backs were
protected by a dense flowering shrub but they could still see the large
plastic structure, its resin palm fronds not moving in the breeze.

"Here, I know you didn't want anything," she handed him a short glass of
whiskey. "If you don't want it I'll have it later. I didn't want to fight
that crowd again." She reclined back against a swell of still warm sand and
sipped a layered drink the colour of the sunset beyond.

"We probably should‘ve stayed inside. You were being check out by some of the
local Nietzschean night life."

"May I ask, Captain Valentine, why you are so eager to have me married?" He
leaned onto an elbow and watched her twirl her straw.

She glanced up at him but wouldn't meet his eyes. "I think you would be
happier if you were husband and father. Isn't that the only thing
Nietzscheans want other than survival?"

He nodded but she didn't look up for affirmation. He might even still have a
wife but it did not make him happy. What did make him happy? He felt content
right now. But content did not rebuild the Kodiak Pride.

"Are you going to resettle your home planet? A Pride needs a home."

"No. My home planet is still covered in nuclear winter. I have chosen my
new planet, but the time is not yet come when I can claim it. Why all these
questions?"

"I didn't mean to pry, just living future plans vicariously through you. And
I'm nosey, or so I've been told." She smiled at him again. She seemed so
different here; her normal agitated energy seemed more in harmony with her
being. "I'd like to help. It'd be a nice change from solving the aftermath
of Harper's crazy schemes."

"So you do not believe my plans ‘run head long into idiocy'?"

While she did give him one of those looks that are normally reserved for her
wayward engineer, she said, "No. I can easily see you sitting grey-haired,"
she twirled a dread between her fingers, "and happy. An island of calm amidst
a storm of children and wives. It is one of the happy thoughts I keep for our
daily look down the barrel of someone's gun or the gullet of some space
monster."

"What are you other happy thoughts?"

"I see Dylan happily trying to overrun some future First Triumvir. Giving
happy idealistic advice to whoever will listen. I see Harper teaching
graduate students at the New Commonwealth High Guard Engineering Academy."

"What is your happy thought for you?" Tyr looked out at the rising moons that
lit a tri-coloured path across the gentle waves.

"Mine are more complicated."

"Are they any less peaceful?"

"Sometimes."

He looked down at her. Her hair was white in the moonlight. The wind lifted
until it looked static charged. "You readily discuss my private plans but you
will not discuss even a hint of yours."

"Well it goes something like this." She reached up and kissed him. He was
surprised enough that he didn't respond and she started to pull away. He
followed her pressing her back against the sand; digging his boneblades
into the soft sand. Her kisses went from tentative to passionate.

"Hey Bek! Tyr!"

It took a second before Harper's voice sank in. Tyr pulled away reluctantly,
wondering if such a moment would ever be captured again.

The growl of frustration Beka let out went straight to Tyr's gut. She kissed
him one more time before standing and brushing the sand from her body.

She collected her drink and stomped as well as her floppy sandals and the
sand would allow. She cuffed Harper across the head as she past. "You have
the timing of a Magog attack!"

"Sorry Boss. Did I interrupt-," the smile on Harper's face did a quick change
to surprise then to 'Uh oh' when Tyr moved into his view still brushing sand
from his pants. "Ah sorry, big guy," he squeaked then ran for the others
where they stood outside the Pavilion.

Tyr escorted the Maru back to the Andromeda. Beka had pushed the old boat
hard. Its engine was still pinging by the time he reached her hanger. He
punched his code into the door.

"Message," said the Maru's synthetic male voice, "for Tyr Anasazi: Please
meet me in my quarters on board Andromeda." The last had been delivered in
Beka's recorded voice.

* * *

A part of his brain that he had well exercised in the past was disappointed
that he had lost this easy opportunity to search the Maru. But more
interesting events had developed.

"Come in." Beka called.

Tyr paused in the doorway holding the doorframe above his head. The interior
of her quarters was Spartan. Very little had been done to it above the
standard issue furniture. The most striking additions were a bold black and
gold bedspread and a tapestry hung like a canopy from the ceiling. Glass
beads winked from the rich blue cloth where it cascaded over the headboard.

Beka stuck her head out of the bathroom to look at him. She wore a deep blue
satin sleeveless shirt and matching loose drawstring pants. Like most of her
clothing the cut had fascinating little windows to the flesh beneath. Unlike
her usual black the blue highlighted the warm hues of her skin.

"Hey." She came to the doorway. "If you regret anything that happened
planet-side you are free at this moment to blame it on the moons and the
beach. Hell, you can even blame it on the bikini. Just do it now." She
reached out and straightened his hair where it had been caught up in the
loops of his bandoleer. "Don't wait. Nothing has happened that can't be
forgotten." Her hair was still damp; she tucked the free strands behind
her ear.

"I fear-," he paused, "I fear that if I come in things will happen too fast.
Let us rewrite history first." He stepped back. "Meet me on ops deck in one
hour." Tyr took another look at her top the little square windows played a
game of hide and seek with the under curve of a breast and peek-a-boo with
the pale pink aureole. He smiled and dipped his head before heading off down
the hall.

He was finishing off two small crème brûlée with a gas torch when she
arrived. She had taken his hint and left on the blue satin but had added a
black jacket. He himself had had changed into comfortable black cotton.

Beka hesitated as she approached the table. She looked out past the
candlelight to the mottled band of the Andromeda galaxy beyond.

After a deep breath she made her way to the table. "I'm having a serious case
of deja vu." She sat in the same seat she had occupied at the first attempt
at this event.

Tyr turned off the stove and removed the domed covers from the plates on the
table. He took the two small pans from the stove and added a brown glaze with
an extra flourish to the tall cylinders of pepper-crusted beef. Then with the
second pan he pooled tarragon-scented butter across the fan of asparagus.
After replacing the pans he took a bowl from under the sous trolley and with
a spoon placed red beads of caviar into the flaky crisp cups formed from
shaved potatoes. The last touches were red coc-o-o-lu flowers sprinkled over
the green spears of asparagus.

He gestured to her to pour the wine as he sat across from her. She held out
her glass. "To the future: May it go as planned. And to the most amazing man,
Nietzschean or human."

He smiled and raised his glass to meet hers. "I can drink to that."

Tyr watched her eat as he sliced a rare morsel from his mignon. Her manners
were quite refined for a tugboat captain who hated to take her boots off even
when she wore a dress. He could not get the lingering smile from his lips.

"You're smiling too much Tyr, it's scary." She took another bite of
asparagus.

He was still stunned by this turn of event and with himself. He couldn't
understand his attraction to Beka. It defied quantifying. She beckoned him
like no other. It could not be because she was the sole female he had contact
with for an extended amount of time. Many of the mercenaries he hired
regularly in the past -- human, Nietzschean or otherwise -- had failed to
rise an eyebrow. Yet Beka Valentine seduced him without even trying.

They continued their meal for many minutes both lost in thought.

"I still can't believe I'm sitting here with you. How do you do this to me?
No other man would have gotten away with half the things you do? Except for
Bobby, but hey young, stupid -- it happens." She stared at him as though
trying to pierce his skin to see what was hidden inside. "How can so many
parts of you be so wrong yet feel so right?"

She had spoken his very thoughts and he did not keep the surprise from his
face well enough.

"Ok your parts aren't wrong, just not my usual fair. Usually I prefer them
rowdy -- you know a little wilder. But maybe that's why I feel so calm around
you. The calm emanates into the air around you. You're pompous and arrogant -
had you been anyone else I would have shot you. Hell, I almost did several
times but Dylan stopped me."

At her bewildered gaze he laughed. Laughter that came from the belly. The
kind of laugh he had experienced more in the last year aboard the Andromeda
then he had since the bombs started dropping on his home. It was part of
Beka's charm that despite her life she could still laugh, care and protect
others with ferocity no matter the odds.

"Is that truly what you think of me? Pompous and arrogant?"

Her frown turned into a lopsided grin. "Yeah, but I guess I just got used
to it." She tilted her head at him; a piece of hair fell across her eyes.
"You're the only man I ever met who comes close to deserving to be."

She finished the last piece of her mignon and he collected their plates. He
presented the crème brûlée and poured fruity Perseid brandy into small
snifters. Again they lapsed into silence.

"That was divine," Beka said as she tried to gather the last molecules from
the ramekin. "Rev's right, it does exist."

When he rose to remove the dishes she caught his hand and led him to a bench
where they had a clear view of space. "That's what maintenance droids are
for." She pulled her feet up under her so that her satin covered knees rested
on his thigh. "You know this is the only sky I have ever considered real. My
father took us to many planets but it was looking out at stars that I always
felt most comfortable. It wasn't an easy childhood even before the flash and
the drug running. It taught me the only person you can truly rely on is
yourself. But this year I have come to rely on you. I've trusted you in ways
I have never trusted anyone." She brought her other hand up and held his hand
between them. "I want to thank you for staying. Without you I wouldn't have
been able to keep this crazy crew alive." She looked up at him and the stars
reflected in her eyes. "Let's not screw this up." Then she kissed him.

Her lips were cool and sweet. Her skin dimpled in the cool air of Andromeda's
artificial night. Tyr wrapped his arms around her and pulled her further up
his chest she slid across him straddling his hips. Her brandy flavoured mouth
added to the decadence. A sweet rush that set his pulse higher; starting the
release of adrenalin through his system. He could nearly feel the pheromones
freeing themselves from his skin, the stew of chemicals that cued his body
for procreation.

He moaned and pulled free. "You're right," he panted. "We are not really
ready."

"Tyr." Beka trailed his name out in exasperation and formed fists on his
chest. "You want a chance to talk your self out of this. And we could be dead
tomorrow! We can deal with the consequences in the morning." She trapped his
lips again and he nearly lost as her hands ran down his stomach to scratch at
the trail of a hair leading below his pants. Some part of him responded
before her hand made it below the elastic waistband. He wrapped his arms
around her and stood; letting her slide down his body to her feet.

"Tyr! Look, I know you put a lot of importance on the initial sex thing, but
ever think that maybe if we get beyond the frustration level we'd better
analyze the situation?" She took a deep breath and placed a hand on his
chest. "I'm not mad. I'm going for a cold shower but I'm not mad. I do
respect your ways. I want to shoot you half the time because of them, but its
also what I like about you." She kissed his check. "See in Command. 'Night"

He let his disappointment show.

"I can't. If I stay I'll end up hitting you over the head with a potted plant
so I can have my evil way with you." She gave him a little wave then left.

Tyr paced his room thinking. He again picked up the flexi of the results of
the Nietzschean blood scan and sat back in his chair. Almost five percent of
Beka's genes were Nietzschean designed or altered. Fifty percent were clean
common genes that Nietzscheans and humans shared. The rest were those that
his people had spent over a hundred generations purifying themselves of.

He ran his finger along the section of double helix that held the code for
boneblades. Had she had the Nietzschean size enhancer genes she would have
been born with them. The archetypical sign of Drago's legacy. Too much and
not enough.

He closed his eyes and helet his head drop back against his chair. A storm
brewed inside. His heart and body stirred, wishing and pushing with all their
will to head him to the First Officer's Quarters and lay with the woman who
wanted and accepted him. His mind chided him for a fool for risking his
future on such a careless whim as happiness.

He groaned to his feet and walked across the room to throw himself face down
upon his bed. He thought about Beka's 'happy thoughts'; still pleased that
his future plans succeeding were something she looked forward to. He could
see himself as she did, happily surrounded by his children and grandchildren,
but every image he formed had Beka in the frame. Beka holding his child. Beka
teaching their children to fly. Beka's iron will bulldozing his other wives
into hard-nosed pragmatism. Beka's smooth skinned body sliding along his as
they moved together, her strong legs locked around his hips. Her mouth parted
as she moaned his name. Her full lips wrapped around him doing those human
things Nietzschean didn't even have names for. Things that would make his
eyes roll back, his body shudder ...

Tyr rolled up out of bed and was out his door, body and heart determined.
Every nerve ending was on red alert. Every enhanced sense processed the world
around him. He slipped though the door into Beka's quarters and silently
stalked toward the bed. She laid in a tangle of sheets her bare back and legs
exposed to him.

"I thought you wanted to wait," she asked without moving.

"I thought you didn't," he replied to cover his surprise.

She rolled over and smiled at him, exposing more flesh. He was drawn closer.

She sat up. The sueded blue sheets dropped away as she extended her hand to
him, inviting him. It was no longer an offer he could refuse. She was not shy
or fearful, as he stood fully clothed before her. Her slim form and skin like
pooled cream against the blue belied her brazen nature.

Tyr kneeled on the edge of the bed and she met him for a kiss. He felt her
shiver, whether from the moment or the brush of his cotton jacket along her
breasts he could not say.

She was still warm and soft from sleep but this didn't stop her deft
practiced hands from removing his top. Her warm hands leaving trails of
stimulated nerves. They slid down his abdomen to stroke the front of his
pants. It was his turn to shiver.

His pants fell away, leaving him exposed to the cool air and warm hands. With
a last nibble she pulled away from his lips and drew him closer by her hold
on his rigid flesh. His wild imaginings came true as she drew him into her
mouth. Tyr panted as this new profound sensation of Beka's tongue licked
little circles down his length. She slid down over him swallowing him into
her throat. With every head bob his control weakened until with a panting
growl he pulled her back to his lips.

He toed off his boots as she pulled him up the bed and onto her body. Beka
wrapped her legs around him inching him closer to where he most wanted to be.
She arched up onto him forcing the union. She matched his moan and he opened
his eyes to look into her face. At first, he thought from the tears in her
eyes that it had hurt, but she held him tightly and he realized that this had
meant as much to her as it did him. She knew this was not done lightly and
that it truly was proof that he loved her.

She held him flush to her body as he began to move within her. "You are
perfect," she breathed against his ear. She cupped his face and looked up
into his eyes. "I love you."

By Drago's Genes, his few sexual encounters had not prepared him for this. He
stared into her cool blue eyes; dilated with passion and widened with wonder.
It was nearly enough to make him believe in the Divine. Oh Beka. "Drago help
me, I love you too."

Her lips parted as if in surprise. With a throaty moan she pressed a kiss
into his neck; her body quaked around him and her enhanced strength gripped
so tightly he could barely move within her. It was too much. One more long
stroke was all he managed before he exploded, spasming in short
uncontrollable thrusts. He gathered her body to him wanting to be closer to
her than he had ever been to anyone.

The feeling didn't ebb. The emotional attachment didn't fade with the heat of
their bodies and the euphoria of endorphins. This was not good. Once they had
coupled his rational mind should have cleared of the hormonal tide that had
engulfed him for so many months. He needed to be free to plan his future
irrespective of his feelings for Beka. But he could not move from his place
within her. She engulfed him even greater now, more completely than she
securely embraced his flesh. He was truly lost.

He rolled them over until she lay limp against him; sighing with satisfaction
into his chest. He was elated by the sounds of her happiness and suffocated
by that elation. What was wrong with him!

Beka yawned but her hands roamed across his chest and her hips lifted as she
twisted her way up and down him. His fears fled as his body rose to her
demand. Surely after this his mind would be clear. Surely.

The End

    

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