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Rating: PG

Pairing: Dylan/Rommie

Summery: Sequel to Face the Music; Rommie and Dylan's relationship courses trouble when a planet founded by religious extremist asks to join the new Commonwealth…

Note: thanks to szhismine for the beta.


Intolerance

Rommie sat in Dylan’s arms in the shade of the tree on the observation-deck. She pulled his arms tighter around her, and he responded by kissing her on the top of the head. It had been six-months since their declarations of love for each other, and Rommie doubted she could be any happier.

She blinked, “Dylan, there is a courier ship approaching from astern. They claim to have a priority message for you.” Dylan sighed, “Why now, we spend time at Drifts and colonies, why now?” Rommie patted his arm, “You’re an important man.” Dylan kissed her again, “Even when I want to spend time with the woman I love? Why couldn’t you let it wait till later?” Rommie turned her head so he could look him in the face, “You know the rules: I’m still the ship’s Avatar. It’s my duty to tell you these things.” Dylan gave up, “Ok, lets go see what it is all about.”

They walked to command arm in arm, but separated as soon as they passed through the hatch: one more rule to their relationship. Beka had the watch, “Message for you from the colony world of New Salem.” Dylan scratched his head, “Can’t say it rings a bell.” Andromeda’s hologram appeared, “It’s relatively new, founded 200 years ago. Mostly Humans, but with a few others added to the mix.” Dylan nodded, “Ok, play the message.”

The main view screen changed to show a well-dressed man sitting behind a desk, “Captain Hunt of the Starship Andromeda Ascendant, my name is Ulysses Cain, and I bring you greetings from the world New Salem. We are interested in joining your new Commonwealth, and ask that you visit us to evaluate our worthiness. You will find our slipstream coordinates attached to the message. We hope to hear from you soon.” The imaged faded.

Dylan shrugged, “Well, short but to the point. What do we know about New Salem?” Rommie blinked, “An agricultural world near Than space. Used to suffer from Nietzschean raids, but they recently up-graded their planetary defense grid. Relatively stable government. According to our most recent records, a man named Ulysses Cain is planetary head of state.” Dylan turned to Beka, “How long would it take us to reach New Salem?” Beka looked at the slip-coordinates, “It’s two slip’s from where we are, with about a days sub-light in-between.”

Dylan smiled, “Let’s go.”


The entire crew assembled in Command in time for arrival at New Salem.

They each reacted in there own way: Beka saw it as just another dirt-ball, Tyr made a note of the impressive orbital defenses, Trance said it looked pretty, Harper said he liked the look of the beaches, Dylan was wondering what he should look for in a potential Commonwealth member, and Rommie was wondering if she could arrange some time off with Dylan, away from the others.

Andromeda appeared on the main screen, “Dylan, we are receiving a transmission from Mr. Cain.” Dylan straightened his uniform, “Put him through.” Andromeda disappeared, and was replaced by Ulysses Cain, “Captain Hunt. I am so glad you where able to find time to visit our world so soon.” Dylan smiled, “We where in the neighborhood. I’d like to invite you to a reception onboard the Andromeda tonight.” Cain nodded, “Why thank you captain, that is most gracious of you. I will be up shortly. I will see you then.” He broke the connection. Dylan turned to Rommie with a smile, and she nodded, “I know: arrange a formal reception, full pomp and circumstance. I’ll get right on it.” As she went to leave, Trance grabbed her arm, “I’ll help you.” Rommie smiled, “Why thank you Trance. I’d appreciate that.”

As the two of them walked down to the observation deck, Trance turned to Rommie, “So, you going to try and get some time away with Dylan planet side?” Rommie laughed, “What are you, a mind reader?” Trance smiled, “No, but since you and Dylan got together, we’ve spent all our time on ship or at Drift stations.” Rommie stopped and nodded, “It would be nice to spend some time alone with him. As much as I like being on ship, there’s not much privacy, even with a crew as small as ours.” Trance smiled, “If you need help arranging something, let me know.” Rommie returned the smile, “Thank you, I will.”

It took Rommie and Trance two hours to arrange the reception, even with the help of half the service robots. In the end, Trance collapsed into a chair, “Don’t you ever get tired?” Rommie thought for a moment, “I don’t get tired like you and the other do, but it does wear down my batteries quite a bit. I suppose you could say I was tired.” She fell into anther chair, deliberately exaggerating Trance’s own actions, making both of them giggle.

Dylan walked in, and was taken aback with the work they had put in, “Wow! You to did a really good job.” Rommie smiled mischievously, “You can thank me later.” Trance giggled again, making Dylan blush. Even he had to admit that Rommie had grown as a person in the last six months: she was much more sure of herself, and acted so human that at times he could forget she was an android. He lifted her to her feet, “Well, now you can help me get into my dress uniform: you know I have trouble with cuff-links.” Rommie smiled softly, running a hand along his cheek, “What would you ever do without me?” Dylan kissed her, “I never want to find out.”


The crew stood in line as Minister Cain’s ship docked. The airlock opened, and they got their first face-to-face look at Ulysses Cain: he was tall, slim, elderly man, dressed in a well-cut black suit. He smile broadly, and offered his hand to Dylan, “Captain Hunt, I am honored to meet you.” Dylan shook the offered hand, “Thank you Minister Cain. I would like to introduce my crew: Rebecca Valentine, my first officer. Tyr Anasazi, my tactical officer. Seamus Harper, my chief engineer. Trance Gemini, my environmental officer. And this is our ship’s Avatar, Rommie.”

Cain winced, “Captain, I must worn you about something: there is a growing anti-AI movement on my planet. New Salem was formed as a religious colony, and some of the more strict sects believe that AI’s are a crime against God. I assure you that nether my government or myself hold that view, but it could be dangerous for your Avatar to go groundside at this time. For her own safety, I suggest that you keep the fact that she is an AI secret.” Dylan nodded, “Thank you for the warning.” He turned to Rommie; “You better stay on ship this time.” She nodded, “I understand.” Dylan led Minister Cain off on a tour of the ship.

Trance put an arm around a upset Rommie, “It’s ok Rommie; we won’t let anything happen to you.” Rommie nodded, “I know, but now I can’t spend anytime alone with Dylan.” Trance hugged her friend as she started to cry, “It’s ok, we’re work something out.” Rommie sobbed, “We love each other, why can’t the rest of the universe accept that and leave us be?”

No one had noticed the face at the airlock window, a face that now disappeared.

Walking back to the Ministers ship, David Stone, head of Cain’s personal security, opened a channel to the planet, “Raven to Shepard: reports of an AI onboard the Andromeda Ascendant confirmed. Also, the abomination appears to be closely attached to the ship’s captain. I suggest we use that to our advantage. Raven out.”

Down on New Salem, Helena Stark, Cain’s deputy smiled. So, that old fool Cain thought he could use the Andromeda Ascendant against God’s true believers? Well, she would soon stop him. She un-locked a drawer in her desk and pulled out a transmitter, “This is Shepard calling all flock members: Operation Damocles is Go! Go! Go!” Putting the radio back in the draw, she smiled anew: soon SHE would lead New Salem back onto the one true path. 

The reception went well, and Minister Cain was very forthcoming when Dylan asked about New Salem. The two of them where chatting quietly when Rommie interrupted them, “I’m sorry, but there is a incoming communication for Minister Cain. It’s your deputy, she says it’s urgent.” Cain nodded, “Is there somewhere I can take it privately?” Dylan nodded, “There is a com-unit just outside the door.” Cain thanked them, and disappeared off for a few minuets.

When he came back, he was visibly shaken, “I’m sorry Captain Hunt, but I will have to cut this visit short: a minority of my government is worried about losing our independence if we join the Commonwealth, and are trying to stage a vote to block the motion. I must go back down and try to alleviate their fears.” Dylan nodded, “Would it help if I came with you, told them what we are trying to accomplish by rebuilding the Commonwealth?” Cain scratched his head, “It may do, and it may not. Any help you can give me would be appreciated.” Dylan called Beka over and told her what was happening, “We’re take the Maru down. That way we can easily return when we need to.” Beka nodded 2C “I’ll go prep for launch.” Beka turned to Tyr, “You're in command till we get back. Try not to start a war.” Tyr nodded, “I’ll do my best.”

Dylan turned to Rommie, “You’re going to have to stay here this time.” Rommie nodded, doing her best to hide her emotions, “Come back safe.”


The Eureka Maru landed next to Cain’s ship, and the Dylan and Beka followed the First Minister to his office. The double-doors opened, and Cain stopped short: a dozen armed soldiers filled the room, gun pointed at the three newcomers. A large chair behind Cain’s desk span round, reviling Stark, an evil grin on her face. Cain was in shock, “Helena? What is going on here?” Stark smiled, “Come know Ulysses, aren’t you going to introduce us?” Cain was to shocked to do anything but comply, “Captain Hunt, Miss Valentine, this is Minister Helena Stark, my deputy.” Stark shook her finger, “Deputy no more: I’m First Minister now.” Dylan was confused, but decided to try and broker peace, “What do you want?” Stark smiled, “Nothing much: just your Androids head on a silver platter.”

Dylan was shocked, “What do you want with Rommie?” Stark glared at him, “So, the abomination has a name, does it?” Cain was still trying to come to terms with what had happened, “Helena, what’s come over you?” Stark laughed, “Nothing's come over me Old Man: I’ve always been like this, but you where to weak to notice. And now it’s time for you to retire. Permanently.”

There was a gunshot, and Cain looked down to see blood poring from a wound in his stomach. His last thought was: why doesn’t it hurt? His body fell to the floor, his lifeless eyes staring up at Dylan. Stark smiled, “Captain Hunt, I’d like you to meet my predecessors head of security, Mark Stone.” Dylan turned to see Stone, smoking gun in hand, smiling. Stark continued, “Who has just shot the first minister. Regrettably, my security detail were to upset to try and take him alive.” A dozen guns went off, and Stone’s ragged corps fell next to Cain’s.

Stark pulled a gun, “Thankfully we where able to capture two off-worlders who may have been involved. They are, ‘helping us with our enquiries’, I believe the term is.” Stark walked round from behind the desk, and stood before Dylan and Beka, “Hand over the abomination and you may go free. Refuse, and watch as our planetary defense grid destroys your ship, then face public execution. Choose.”

Dylan was too shocked to speak, so Beka stepped in, “What do you hope to gain from this?” Stark grinned, “What do I hope to gain? The destruction of abomination your captain is so fond of. Oh yes, we know about that. The late Mr. Stone was able to discover that much while on your ship. I must say Captain Hunt: fornicating with an android? You sicken me. Now, let’s go see what your crew has to say about this.”

Tyr was sitting in the pilot’s chair, reading, when alarms started going off. He dropped his book as he stood up, “Ship, what’s going on?” Andromeda’s image filled the main screen, “New Salem’s planetary defense grid just came on line. Over two-dozen fissions-cannons and missile-batteries have locked on to us. Incoming communication from the planet.” Tyr sat back down, “Put it through.” Andromeda’s image was replaced with Starks, “This is First Minister Helena Stark calling the Andromeda Ascendant, respond.” Tyr nodded, “This is Tyr Anasazi, ranking officer onboard. Why have you targeted us?”

Stark grinned, “Blunt and confrontational: just what I’d expect from an Uber. Who is the senior Human onboard?” Tyr blinked, “You want to talk to Harper?” Stark shrugged, “If that is their name, yes.” Tyr activated the com-system, “Mr Harper to command, at the double.” Less than a minute passed before Harper came careening thorough the hatch, Trance not far behind, “What’s going on?” Tyr pointed at the screen; “This ‘woman’ wants to talk to the highest ranking human on ship. It appears that I don’t count.” Confused, Harper looked at the screen, “So, how can I help you?”

Stark smiled, “It’s very simple: If you don’t hand over your android to us in the next hour, your ship will be destroyed, then your Captain and First Officer will be executed.” Harper blinked, “Er, can you give us a moment to think this over?” Stark nodded, “Very well: I will contact you again in five standard minutes.” The screen went dead.


Harper looked at the blank screen, “Why does this crap have to happen to me?” He turned to face Tyr, “What the hell am I supposed to do?” Trance jumped into the conversation, “We can’t hand Rommie over to them: their kill her.” Tyr nodded, “For once, the three of us are in agreement: we cave into them on this, there is no reason to believe they will not just make another demand.” Harper looked at him, “That’s a very Nietzschean way of looking at it Tyr, but I’m glad that you’re with us on this.” 

Andromeda’s holographic form appeared before them, “I can’t take on a planetary defense grid, but I shear Tyr’s assessment of the situation: we can’t give in.” Harper turned to the hologram, “Does Rommie know?” Andromeda nodded, “She’s my Avatar: she knows everything I know.” Harper sighed, “And let me guess: she’s on her way to a hanger deck, intent on giving herself up to save Dylan.” Andromeda nodded, “She loves him, and will do anything to protect him.” Harper suddenly smiled, “I got a plan: Trance, you have to get to Rommie before she reaches the hanger. I’ll explain more then. I just hope we’re in time.”

Down on New Salem, Dylan found himself strapped to an interrogation chair. Stark stood before him, “Tell me Captain Hunt, do you believe in God?” Dylan nodded, making Stark smile, “And so you believe you have an immortal soul?” Dylan looked at her, unsure where this was going, “I suppose so.” Stark grabbed him by the collar and brought her face within inches of his, “Then who do you risk it by your relationship with that abomination you call Rommie?” Dylan pulled his head back as far as he could, “Because I love her, and she loves me.” Stark slapped him hard across the face, “You really expect me to believe that an AI can truly love someone? Let’s see what your shipmates have to say on the matter.”

Stark activated the com-unit built into the wall in front of Dylan: Harper's face appeared after a moment, “Rommie’s on her way down in a drop-pod now.” Stark smiled, “Excellent. Your captain will be released as soon as it has been dealt with.” She cut the link and turned back to Dylan, “Look’s like your crew has more brains then you do: they are unwilling to risk their lives for an AI.”

Dylan blinked, confused by what had just happened: Harper had sent Rommie to her death to save his own skin. Back on Castalia, he had been willing to confess to the murder of President Lee in order to save Andromeda. What could have made Harper change so much? Was it his relationship with Rommie? Had that upset the normally jovial engineer so much that he would do this? No: Harper still had feelings for Rommie, but did his best to hide them out of respect for Rommie’s feelings. Trance would never do something like that, which left only one person: Tyr. The Nietzschean had never warmed to Rommie, and had continued to call her Ship until she had become involved with Dylan. It was possible that Tyr had forced Harper and Trance to keep out of the way. Rommie had proved before that that she was willing to die to save her captain, the man she loved.

Stark undid the bound that tied Dylan to the chair, but kept him handcuffed, “Come, see God’s will in action.”


Dylan and Beka where lead out to the landing field where they had landed the Maru only hours before. Guards surrounded the cargo ship, guns up and ready. Stark stopped behind a computer conical set up on a table. The screen showed a radar image of the sky above the spaceport. A blip on the screen was slowly descending. Dylan swallowed: it was the drop-pod carrying Rommie to her death.

Stark turned to her two prisoners, “And now you will see the fate of all abominations before the eyes of God. You will see his justice done.” Dylan pleaded with the First Minister, “What did Rommie ever do to you?” Stark glared at him, “It was created. Then it corrupted you and your entire crew into believing that it had true emotions. Then it corrupted you even further by making you believe you loved it.” Dylan struggled to free himself of the guards that held him back, “Her name is Rommie! And she’s more of a human being than you will ever be!” Stark smiled, “Soon she will be nothing more than a dark stain on your soul.”

There was an ear-splitting roar as the drop-pod came into view, trailing smoke. There was a flash as its retro-rockets fired, slowing it for landing. The assembled guards aimed their weapons at the drop-pod, ready for any trouble. The smoke cleared, and the hatch opened. Dylan began to cry as Rommie stepped out, wearing a long flowing robe. She turned to Stark, “Here I am: let them go.” Stark grinned, “I will, but only after they have seen your execution.” She punched a command into the computer.

High in orbit, one of the fission-cannons turned to face the planet. A beam of pure energy shot down from the sky and impacted where Rommie was standing: designed to deal with attacking warships, the cannon vaporized the android instantly.

Dylan’s legs gave way and he fell to the ground in shock. Beka started to cry.

Stark turned to them, “Now you may leave. I suggest you never return.” A guard unlocked their handcuffs, and Beka pulled Dylan to his feet: his eyes where un-focused, his expression blank. The only sign that he was still conscious were the tires running down his cheeks. Without looking at Stark, Beka led him to the Maru.

 

The trip back to Andromeda was conducted in silence: Dylan sat comatose in the galley while Beka piloted. Andromeda was already pulling away from New Salem, and Beka was glad to see the last of the planet that had claimed Rommie’s life, and perhaps Dylan’s mind. She landed the Maru in it’s usual spot, and lead Dylan through the Airlock. Dylan stood unmoving in the corridor outside the hanger, un-willing to think about what had happened.

A voice from behind him called out, “Dylan.”


Dylan turned round and was blinded by the flash of a camera going off. He blinked, trying to get his eyes to clear, and looked again: Stood against the bulkhead, a grinning Harper and Trance at her side, was Rommie, “Hi lover. Miss me?”

Dylan gasped, “But you? How the? What the?” Harper laughed, handing his camera to Trance, “Just call me Seamus Z Harper, Magician Extraordinaire. You really think we’d let Rommie go down there to get killed?” Beka was also in shock, “How did you do it?” Harper smiled, “Well, I’d hate to give up all my secrets, but it went like this: Rommie was ready to give herself up to save Dylan, when I had a brainwave; that crazy Stark woman wanted an Android, so we’d give her one. Or to be more precise, we’d give her an Mk.3 service android fitted with a few of Rommie’s spare parts. Trance grabbed a robe from medical to hide its body and legs.”

Andromeda’s holographic form appeared, “And I operated it by remote control. It was Tyr’s idea to use a Lancer drop-pod. It hid the fact that the Mk.3 lack’s the dexterity to handle a ship on it’s own.” Trance smiled, “They saw what they wanted to see. It’s not out fault that they got it wrong.” Beka looked at the four of them, “You really are a devious lot. I can’t believe you pulled it off: you even fooled me and Dylan.”

Dylan was still in shock, so Rommie walked up to him and planted a kiss on his lips, “You really think I’d let you go that easily?” Dylan seemed to come to, “Don’t ever do anything like that again: I’ve never been so scared in my life.” Rommie smiled as she put her arms around him, “Well at least I now know how you truly feel about me.”

Trance turned to the others; “I think we should give them some time alone. And I can use your help with something I have planned.” With that, she led the confused Beka and Harper off, leaving Dylan and Rommie alone.

Tyr took the ship out of range of New Salem’s Planetary Defence Grid before handing over the controls to Beka, “I suggest you get us out of here as fast as you can.” Beka nodded, and took the Andromeda into slipstream.


“Is this really necessary?” asked a blindfolded Dylan as he was led along the corridor. Rommie giggled, “What can I say: I just like having you at my mercy.”

They finally reached the observation deck, and Rommie took the blindfold off. Dylan gasped: under the tree sat a tent, and a fire burned invitingly, “What’s all this for?” Rommie hugged his arm, “Well, I had been hopping to arrange some time alone with you on New Salem, but that went up in smoke the moment Minister Cain told us about the anti-AI movement. This was Trance’s compromise.”

Dylan looked down at her, “But we have duty-shifts.” Rommie shook her head, “Not for the next two days we don’t. I’ve arranged it with the others, and their going to cover for us. Andromeda can do without me for that long, and you need time to get over that nasty shock you had.” With that, she led him over to the fire. Dylan looked around: there was everything they would need for two days, “But how can we justify this?” Rommie put her arms around him, “Well, you’ve been working very hard, and need some time off. You once told me I needed to relax and go with the music.” With that, the air was filled with the sound of a band playing a slow waltz.

Rommie smiled as Dylan recognized the music, “This is what the band was playing when I asked you to dance at the FTA dinner!” Rommie took his hands, “Shall we?” Dylan smiled, taking her in his arms “We shall.”

They began to dance slowly in the firelight as the stars drifted-by outside.

The End

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