"The transmission originated from a communications port on Obs deck," Rommie told them, but she was cut off by the sound of the door behind them sliding open.
Dylan turned, irritated by the interruption. They were so close--
"I control that port," Rommie said, stepping onto the Bridge. "Captain, the evidence is clear. I killed President Li."
For a moment he just looked at her, unable to comprehend what she had said. At his side he felt the colonel stiffen, but it was a distant awareness--he couldn't seem to focus on anything other than the woman in front of him.
When her words finally penetrated, he felt as though he'd taken Tyr's force lance in the gut. She would turn herself over to the authorities for the sake of the Commonwealth he was trying to build, and she would no doubt consider it a fair trade. They wouldn't question her confession--she was nothing if not convincing, and these people were out for blood.
There was a whisper of air that his subconscious registered as someone going for a weapon, and in a heartbeat the Castalian beside him went from ally to enemy. She would have to go through him to get to his ship.
Even as the thought entered his mind, though, he knew that it wasn't her he had to convince. Rommie was strong-willed enough to push this through, and it was her life if he couldn't change her mind.
Oddly, he didn't have time to feel helpless--he was too busy being afraid.
"Dylan, I'm a warship." Her voice was calm, much calmer than it had a right to be under the circumstances. "I was created with the knowledge that I might have to be sacrificed for the Commonwealth. I've always been prepared for that."
She must have seen something in his expression, for she added gently, "Haven't you?"
He found himself struggling for the words. "It was always a possibility, yes..." He tried to look away and found he couldn't. "But in battle--going down together. Not like this."
She smiled faintly. "What is it Rev Bem always says?"
He couldn't care less what Rev said right now, but she didn't seem to notice his distraction. "'The universe doesn't always give you what you want,'" she quoted. "'It gives you what you need.'"
In that moment, he made up his mind. Principles or not, they would turn tail and run before he let the colonel get her hands on his ship. "What I need is you," he told her bluntly. "And no falsified data record is going to change that."
She just stared at him for a moment, then blinked and put her hands behind her back. "It wasn't falsified, Dylan. I did this, and I will accept the consequences."
It was funny, he realized, but he had never once considered the possibility that she might be telling the truth. "If you did it," he said slowly, "you were forced to. Did you *mean* to kill the president?"
"No," she replied without hesitation. "But the road to hell--"
"Rommie!" He grabbed her shoulders, just barely keeping himself from shaking some sense into her. "You will *not* turn yourself over to the Castalians. Do you understand?"
She visibly hesitated, and her face looked as though it couldn't decide what expression to wear. "I understand," she said at last, in the tone of voice that added "idiotic though it is" at the end without her having to say it. "But I don't agree."
"No." He stared down at her, relieved to have her word. "You've made that quite clear."
She frowned. "You know I'm right. They aren't going to just let this go."
His grip on her shoulders tightened. "What I know is that we can't do this without you, and I'm not turning you over to some lynch mob just to placate a bloodthirsty population!"
"You wouldn't lose the ship," she reminded him, apparently taken aback by his vehemence. "Only my personality would be gone."
Was that sadness in her eyes? She couldn't be as nonchalant about this idea as she seemed, but she would do what she thought she had to--if he let her. Of that he had no doubt.
"There is no 'only'," he said roughly. He tried to loosen his fingers a little, but the words still came out as a growl. "As long as I live, *you* are Andromeda Ascendant." He almost stopped there, but he found himself adding more quietly, "You're all I have left, Rommie. I'm not losing you."
She gazed at him for a long moment, not protesting his hold on her or arguing his declaration. He hadn't meant to say that, but he knew, in some small selfish corner of his mind, that what she thought was important to him she would make important to her as well. If she knew that she was sometimes the only thing that kept him going, maybe she wouldn't be so quick to make these ridiculous sacrifices.
"Understood," she said at last. She was regarding him with a thoughtful expression that made him look away, suddenly eager to avoid her scrutiny.
"Great," he said. He remembered, belatedly, to let go of her, and he turned around as though there was something pressing to finish. "Let's do this, then."