Trance's Tesseract

"How can you not love glowy girls with long sparkly hair?"

"We'll never be together like this again," she had told them.

Yet Trance Gemini had given up so much to keep them alive, to bring them all here. Separately. Together again, and not, at the same time.

What is this supposed to show me? What their lives would be like without me? What their loyalty to me has done to them? Are they better off with me or without?

Footsteps on the deck behind him came as no surprise. They only told him in which form she had chosen to approach him. He didn't let anyone else see him like this.

Funny, though... he had expected the hologram.

"You aren't one to brood, Captain."

He smiled a little, elbows braced on his knees as he stared down at the floor. "Yes, I am. You've been an accomplice too many times to deny it."

"Perhaps I should have said that you aren't one to doubt, then."

His smile faded, but he still didn't look up. "No," he admitted. "Maybe that's a failing of mine."

"It is your conviction that keeps this ship and crew together. I don't know how you can question that."

"Trance kept us together," he snapped, more impatient with himself than with her. "All I did was destroy everything I could, as efficiently as I could, as fast as I could."

More softly, he added, "This crew included."

"You asked nothing of us that we didn't willingly give. And if Beka refused, then it only highlights the fact that the rest of us didn't. We volunteered. You didn't force anyone to stay."

"Beka." He shook his head, not sure why her betrayal hurt so much more.

"Does it bother you that you have Rhade's loyalty before Beka's?"

He snorted. "Rhade's loyalty is to himself. Like Beka's."

"That's not true. Rhade will stand with you no matter what. You've given him hope."

"You know, that's exactly what he said to me. Or... almost exactly," he said with a wry smile. "Right before he damned me for it."

"You don't damn someone for something you've given up."

"Maybe he would have been better off without it," he said with a sigh. "Maybe they all would have been; I don't know. Where has my hope gotten them? Months of suffering, of cursing my name, cut off from the rest of the universe in a backwater that doesn't know or care that they exist?"

"You're a fighter, Dylan. A fighter and a master strategist."

He closed his eyes, shamed as never before by her implacable belief in him.

"But your true strength lies elsewhere. Alone, you're a cause without force, without effect. Your strength has always lain in leadership. You inspire others, you give them hope, and in so doing you make things happen. And that is why Trance saved us. Because the universe needs you--and you need us."

"Great," he muttered. "You're responsible for the things you tame, you know."

"Antoine de Saint-Exupery," she said calmly. He should have known she would recognize the reference. "We aren't tamed, Dylan. The last few months have proven that your crew can survive just fine without you. They gave their loyalty of their own accord over the last four years, and they will do it again. Because they want to. Not because they want someone else to be responsible for them."

He propped his chin on his hands, still staring at the floor. Could he really convince himself that they had all made their own choices? That they had followed him into this mess because they wanted to?

Was it more presumptuous to think that they had done it because he told them to?

"What about you?" he asked abruptly.

"I'm sorry?"

"You said, 'we' volunteered. That I didn't force any of you to stay... but I did, didn't I. I never asked you what you wanted."

"You didn't have to. I'm a ship of the Commonwealth. I do what my captain decides."

"There is no Commonwealth," he said softly. "Not out here."

"The Commonwealth exists wherever you are."

"What if I was gone?" he insisted. He didn't know why he tried, sometimes, but he hadn't given up yet. He kept pressing, hoping that someday he would get an answer out of her. "If I was somewhere else? What would you do?"

"I would follow whatever orders you had left."

"What if I hadn't left any?"

"Then I would execute what I believed to be your will to the best of my ability."

"What about what you want, Andromeda? You can't tell me that diving into the center of the Magog worldship was your idea of a good time."

There was a pause, the first hesitation he had heard from her. He finally lifted his head, about to turn when he felt the lightest of touches on his shoulder. He froze. She had never touched him first, and now he was afraid to move lest he startle her away.

"I have all I want, Captain."

"Dylan," he corrected automatically.

"I have all I want," she repeated. "Dylan."

He looked up at her then, remembering Trance's words again. She had seemed ineffably sad... a sorrow that was clearly gone from her now, along with most of her memory. And they had all taken her words as the end, as a prophecy that would separate them for good.

It had--and it hadn't.

"We'll never be together like this again."

Now, staring into Rommie's eyes, he wondered if Trance's words had been about beginnings as much as they had been about endings.

Run Away