A Ship of Agendas @lord22
The Mission

Chapter Eleven: The Mission

The inside of the Station Thermopolyae had probably seen better days.

It looked like there had been multiple repairs done. Probably with different varieties of nano-paste. There were traces of steel gray, like the Maru, and also elements of other structures. Very little of the area had a trace of the traditional, clean, Commonwealth defenses.

"Are you sure about leaving Harper on his own with Rev, Dylan?" asked Trance.

"They're on opposite sides of the ship, Trance," said Dylan. "And neither one of them seems the kind to murder the other. Andromeda can keep them separate."

"Wow, you're sort of a suspicious person, aren't you?" asked Trance in surprise.

Dylan looked at Trance and wondered exactly where she fits into all of this. He hadn't really been able to make heads or tails of what job she fulfilled on Beka's ship. "Recent events have made me paranoid, yes.

"Is it paranoia if they really are all out to get you?"

"Well, I think paranoia can be a self-fulfilling prophecy," said Trance. "You trust no one, so no one trusts you."

"Right, well, I'd prefer to go with a policy with trust but verify until I have a firmer grasp on the situation," said Dylan. "What do you do on Beka's ship anyway?"

"Oh, I take care of the plants," said Trance. "I also help out around places and help with luck."

"Help with luck?" asked Dylan with a frown.

"I've got a knack for being in the right place at the right time," said Trance.

And then they were met by Ortiz. She wore a decorated military uniform that was clearly Commonwealth. Her guards were likewise clad, but many of the dockworkers were not. Which was just as well. They were moving dozens upon dozens of Magog corpses into incinerator carts.

"Captain Hunt, welcome aboard," said Ortiz.

Dylan looked around at the bodies, wondering if they'd had families. And if no one did miss them, that was somewhat sad in its own way. "This is a lot of dead Magog."

"Yes, well, your friend Tyr Anasazi is a very good fighter," said Ortiz. "He must have killed dozens of them as soon as he hit the deck. He slaughtered his way all the way up to our checkpoints and then turned around and started killing more.

"Some of the Magog actually begged for mercy.

"I didn't even realize they could think."

"Did he spare them?" asked Dylan.

"Obviously not," said Ortiz. "We don't take Magog prisoners, Captain Hunt. No one wants them back, and they're a liability."

"I see," said Dylan. "Well, what happens now?"

"Well, I suppose I should thank you for your help and ask for some more," said Ortiz. "And also ask if there is any way we can help you."

"Well, I've got stores of medical supplies on the Andromeda," said Dylan. "I'll put them at your disposal if you want. As for what could help me, I could use some repair parts for the Andromeda. Most of our systems got wrecked in the Black Hole."

"Then you are the real Dylan Hunt?" asked Ortiz, looking surprised.

"Yes, that's me," said Dylan. "Sorry to disappoint you."

Ortiz, however, was looking very thoughtful as she considered things. "...Do you have a store of Nova Bombs?"

"Why does it matter?" asked Dylan, not liking the question at all.

"The Commonwealth is in a very bad strategic situation, Captain Hunt," said Ortiz. "And I need to know what resources I can draw on."

"Why don't we put out the medical supplies and then talk about it then?" asked Dylan.

"Fair enough," said Ortiz. "Get the supplies. Then load the skiff with nano-paste. My men could bring it on board directly if you want?"

"No, thank you," said Hunt.

Hunt ended up having to do his own grunt work for what came next. Some people imagined flying a ship like Andromeda with a skeleton crew to be romantic. They focused on the narrow escapes which had happened in history—the stories of bonds.

They didn't think about what it meant when you got into port.

The fact of the matter was that the crew was important for a lot of things besides flying the ship. And one of the procedures Andromeda could not automate was cargo loading. That was a deliberate design flaw in things.

So it was that Beka and Tyr found Trance driving a skiff of cargo out into the station while Hunt loaded another. Trance seemed to be an instant expert at most things, where Dylan had no practical experience. So he delegated.

"Beka, Tyr, you're both alive," said Dylan, wiping the sweat from his brow.

"Yes," said Tyr, spinning a knife in one hand before sheathing it. "These Magog were weak for their kind, less savage."

"It's probably population control," said Beka.

"Population control?" asked Dylan.

"Rev says the Magog have a primitive collective unconscious," said Beka. "Whenever their numbers grow too great, they go out on raids. Oftentimes the raids are incredibly clumsy; other times, they aren't.

"It depends on the leader.

"The whole point is to get enough of their kind killed off or moved to take the pressure off the local environment. They mostly targetted worlds they were heavily industrialized when they attacked."

"Eco-terrorists," mused Tyr.

"We prefer the term monsters," said Ortiz. "Everything is set up, Captain Hunt.

"...Don't you have a crew for this kind of thing?"

"I do. Half of it is standing in front of you; Harper is doing repairs. Everyone else is making sure Rhade doesn't break out," said Dylan. "Most of my crew evacuated before we hit the Black Hole."

"Ah," said Ortiz. "Well, I'm certain I could find some people willing to assist you.

"In the meantime, I shall be blunt.

"As Beka Valentine already noticed, this raid was an attempt at population control. However, it was a far larger one than any we normally face. And it is one of many that have been growing in intensity.

"We have been calling upon our allies for additional resources-"

"Who are these allies?" asked Tyr.

"The Commonwealth, or what remains of it, is a series of fortresses. It stands between the Magog and the rest of the galaxy," said Ortiz. "During the fall, the Nietzscheans deliberately left the border garrisons alone. The other powers leave us be and provide the High Guard with supplies and equipment.

"However, the more we ask, the less they are likely to give us what we need.

"And we've been facing that situation recently.

"Some time ago, I dispatched a scouting party out to take life readings of a number of Magog worlds. Thankfully, they were able to avoid detection, and while out there, we got these." Drawing out a holographic projector, she sent forth a wave of light. What appeared before them were statistics.

Very, very, bad statistics.

"Trillions of Magog," said Tyr.

"Yes," said Ortiz. "Even their least populated worlds are metropolis' by our standards. Their raids have been growing because their worlds can't support them anymore.

"I believe it is only a matter of time, perhaps a year or two before they launch a full-blown invasion. When that happens, these defenses will be overrun. The Magog will wash over the universe again, and we'll be in for an even longer night.

"So, Captain Hunt, I'd like you to answer my question now. Do you have Nova Bombs?"

Dylan didn't see any use in evading the question. "Andromeda has a store of them, yes.

"I'd like to know what you want to use them for, however." Not that refusing would be easy. If Ortiz decided to force the issue, Dylan wasn't sure he could rely on his makeshift crew. And even if he could, where could he go but right back to Cuchulain.

"I've taken steps to get a general layout for the Magog worlds," said Ortiz. "I know which systems are the most heavily populated. And where most of their ships are manufactured at that.

"I also know that no one has posted defenses around their suns for a century.

"I've created a slipspace route. If followed, you would be able to stage a blitzkrieg. If you destroy these three suns, we will annihilate a full third of the known Magog population."

"That sounds like a very dangerous idea, Ortiz," said Trance, sounding disturbed.

Dylan paused. "You want to commit genocide? The Nova Bombs were intended to be used only as a last resort. Hell, I'm not legally allowed to launch one without authorization from the Vedrans.

"I realize the chain of command doesn't seem to exist anymore, but..."

"The Vedran have abandoned us, and this is the last resort," said Ortiz. "It's them or us."

"We can't launch a war of extermination!" said Dylan. "Even the Magog were never that bad.

"There has to be another way."

"And what other way do you suggest, Captain Hunt?" asked Ortiz.

Dylan actually had an answer. He'd been thinking about what he ought to do once he gained safe harbor and a working ship. Fantasies of flying around the universe. Of helping people and reforming the Commonwealth had been entertaining.

It was a stupid idea that would probably never work in real life. But as long as the alternative was a genocide...

"Form a coalition. Tell people about the threat and give them your findings," said Dylan. "The Commonwealth remnants are left alone because they fend off the Magog. If you tell people that you're about to be overrun, they might be willing to back you up. Cuchulain has a huge fleet, and this is his problem as much as it is yours."

"You can't be serious, Dylan," said Beka incredulously. "You want us to put together a Last Alliance when we could just Nova Bomb the things." Well, at least they were on a first-name basis. "We wouldn't even have to lose anyone with this plan! We just slipspace to a few suns and wipe them out."

"Maybe the suns won't like you doing it," noted Trance. "There's a simple solution to everything, Beka, and it's usually wrong."

"Everyone hates the Magog, Trance!" said Beka. "And the Magog are all trying to kill us! And the suns are about as sentient as plants!"

"Quite frankly, Beka," said Trance. "I find your attitude offensive."

"Find it however you like," said Beka. "A couple of slipspace jumps, and all our problems are solved."

"I didn't say that Nova Bombing the Magog would be hard," said Dylan flatly. "I said it wouldn't be right."

Beka stared at Dylan. "Do you know how these things reproduce? They impregnate an animal, male or female, sentient or not. And then the children rip themselves out of the animal's body, devouring it alive.

"Harper had to kill his cousins back on Earth because of these animals."

"There's a Magog Wayist on your ship, Beka," said Dylan. "And what if those planets have other populations other than the Magog on them. We already know Magog don't make wars of extinction.

"We'd be wiping them out too. Not to mention all the animals and plants."

"Look, I like Rev, but he's an exception Dylan," said Beka. "Most Magog can't even string two sentences together and look at what they did here."

"Jesus was an exception," said Dylan. "But apparently he was enough to save mankind."

"You seriously buy into that-" began Beka.

"You are a slow bunch, aren't you?" asked Tyr, leaning against a wall.

They looked up and saw Tyr practicing stances with a knife. Dylan wondered which side he'd come in on. "Tyr?"

"Let me ask you this, Ortiz," said Tyr. "Where did you get all the equipment you're using here? The food, the ships, the guns?"

"From worlds we protect," said Ortiz.

"And what do you protect them from?" asked Tyr.

"The Magog, of course," said Ortiz.

"Right, now, use your brain for this one," said Tyr. "If you blow up all the Magog, why do they need you anymore?"

Ortiz shifted as the information forced her to reconsider things. "...It would be worth it to kill those things. To end the war."

"Would it?" asked Tyr. "Will you still say that when everyone on this station is starving? Or when Cuchulain sends his legions down here to massacre you? Will the people who take you for granted come to defend you? Or just be glad one less expense is on their checkbook.

"The galaxy needs you right now. But it won't if you take the easy way out.

"Kill the Magog, and you kill yourself.

"On the other hand, alternatives present themselves."

"What alternatives?" asked Ortiz.

"Dylan had it right," said Tyr. "We can form a coalition to deal with them. You need only contact nearby worlds and convince them to send more supplies. Perhaps iron out some non-aggression pacts between feuding enemies. Make it a mission of peace.

"And as the person brooking that peace, you are in a position to amass a great deal of power."

"We could refound the Commonwealth, Ortiz," said Dylan. He found it surreal that Tyr was the only person to agree with him. "Maybe not as strong as before, but we could make a start. And you said yourself it would be a year or two before critical mass.

"Give me some repairs, a crew, and a few months, and things will look very different at the end of all this.

"At the very least, I can stabilize some trade lanes, and you can shore up some more support.

If the Commonwealth is going to die, let's at least let be said we stuck to our principles as long as we could. If we just blow up the Magog right away, we'll be no better than them."

Ortiz paused. "...Alright, Captain Hunt, I'll give you your chance.

"Good to hear," said Hunt. "Now we just have repair work and a lot of negotiations ahead of us. Tyr, Beka, I need your help with these boxes."

So much for the glories of having a small crew.

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