Chapter Two: Schemes and Counterschemes
The halls of the Eureka Maru were a bit cramped now, with dozens of mercenaries filling the halls. Beka didn't like it any better than she had before. In fact, she liked it less. "Welcome aboard the Eureka Maru boys; I hope you don't mind cold sleep. Because I don't have a bed for everyone."
"Just so long as we get the job done, it doesn't matter," said Gerentex.
"Does that mean you'll be sleeping in cold storage?" asked Beka.
"Of course, not my dear. I am the Commander of this Expedition," said Gerentex. "It is only natural that all the other critical members of the crew and I should be awake for the whole expedition."
"Just remember that I'm the Captain of this Ship," said Beka.
"But of course," said Gerentex.
And then Harper walked in. "Hey lovely ladies, Seamus Harper is on board. Please, save the champagne and confetti for later. I don't ask much."
"That's probably a good thing," noted Beka.
"Hey, uh, where's the other blonde?" asked Harper. "The one from before?"
Beka looked around to answer his question. And she realized that she was nowhere to be seen. She looked at Gerentex. "I think we're short one."
"She decided she did not like being in my employ," said Geretex. "Naturally, I couldn't have anyone reporting our mission. That could cause complications. So I had Mr. Anasazi compel her silence."
"You killed her," said Beka.
"If we must be blunt, yes."
"What the hell, Gerentex!" said Beka. "I didn't sign on to-"
"You signed on to take my orders!" snapped Gerentex. "If she left such a lucrative mission, it was to tell someone else about it! We'd have vultures flying above to pick our corpses clean before we even got the ship out!
"I've put too much work into this to let it fall apart now!"
Beka fell silent. She knew she was pickier than a lot of other people. Glancing at Harper, she noticed he looked pissed off. But there were too many zeroes at the end of this to refuse. "…Fine, okay."
"You're Seamus Harper, right?" said Trance, coming forward.
"Well, I guess you've heard of me," said Harper, slicking back his hair and trying to look confident. He was trying to hide his anger.
"Yes. Beka said you were a loudmouth," said Trance.
"Eh, they all say that about me, to begin with," said Harper.
"Would you like to see my plants?" asked Trance.
Harper raised an eyebrow. "Plants?"
Beka decided she'd better intervene before he thought Trance was propositioning him. "Trance grows a lot of plants in the infirmary."
"…Sure, why not," said Harper.
At that moment, Rev came back. "Beka, I have finished preparing the engines and-"
And then a gun was raised, and Harper was stepping back. A dozen other guns were raised as well. "Whoa, whoa, what is this Magog doing here?"
"I might ask the same question," said Gerentex.
"You need not fear me," said Rev. "I am a priest of the divine, a Wayist. I have vowed never to kill."
"Sure you have," said Harper. "And maybe your species doesn't reproduce by rape and have their babies tear their way out of people's stomachs.
"Maybe a lot of things.
"What I know is that I'm not okay with having one of those things on the same ship as me."
"Then you can all leave," snapped Beka. "Rev is part of my crew, and if you've got a problem with it, too bad."
"All of you be calm down," said Gerentex. "I've got too much money on the line to let a stupid thing like racism ruin things. Now, where is Tyr?"
And then Tyr appeared from the shadows. "I've checked the cold storage facilities. They aren't trapped, and they are in perfect condition."
"Good," said Gerentex.
"What?" said Beka. "But it was under lockdown."
"It was," said Geretex. "Now get the ship in the air."
Beka would have flared up. She was pissed. But she was smart enough to know now wasn't the time. So she just arranged for all of the mercenaries to be put in cold storage and went to pilot the ship out.
While Trance showed Harper her plans, Rev entered the bridge. Beka looked up from her controls as he came to stand beside her. She didn't say anything for a minute. So he spoke instead. "We seem to have brought a serpent into our home, Beka."
"Yeah, I noticed," said Beka.
"However, the serpent stands for more than evil," said Rev.. "It was a snake that tempted Eve into taking the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge. But it is also a snake that is the symbol of healing and knowledge."
"Rev, do you have a point?" asked Beka, not in the mood.
"All things may be turned to good or ill," said Rev. "I fear this mission we are launching has been done with ill intentions. Yet it may be possible to set it right."
"Rev, I'm not interested in right or wrong. Just making a profit," said Beka.
"You know that to be untrue. Right and wrong are not subjective," said Rev. "There is good, and there is evil. Both are very real forces that manifest in a thousand faces.
"Sooner or later, one must choose between them."
"You know, that's what I don't get about you, Rev," said Beka. "You're a priest of the divine. So why did you decide to travel here on a smuggler ship?
"It doesn't seem like your thing.'
"One must seek new experiences or else you will cease to learn," said Rev.
"Well, I guess that's one answer," said Beka.
Rev sighed. "In truth, I was ill content to remain in hallowed halls, meditating, and praying. The brethren are well-intentioned. But they have become a bit conservative in these dark times."
"Dark times?" asked Beka. There hadn't been any notable crisis lately. No nearby worlds had been destroyed.
"The Long Night," said Rev.
Oh right, dark times in a general sense. "Right, that whole new age thing. How does it go?"
"Roughly speaking, there is the Gathering Dawn. That is when the races advanced and created new civilizations. It concludes with the Vedrans creating their empire," said Rev. "Then there is the Bright Noon when the Commonwealth was united and the universe prosperous. Then the Failing Twilight, when the Commonwealth began to fracture. And at last, the Long Night. That begins with the Nietzschean Victory over the last Commonwealth Fleet.
"It is marked the beginning of the Second Magog Invasion. Supposedly it will end with the New Dawn. A time when a new civilization shall be created that will be even greater than the last."
"Must be tough, having your race get all the blame for the Long Night," said Beka.
"We were but one symptom of an underlying cause," said Rev. "Ones' spiritual decay is the root of all weakness, and there was much of that during the Failing Twilight."
"Hey, something has always bothered me," said Beka, staring out into the starry expanse. "All the histories talk about how nobody could stop the Magog. I mean, the Nietzscheans protected some worlds. But they couldn't have defended them all. Not with the way they fractured.
"Shouldn't there have been a lot more damage? I mean, I've never heard of a world that was completely wiped out by the Magog."
"It is one of our few principles that we should never drive any race to extinction," said Rev. "Nor reduce the population of a world below sustainable levels. All Magog hold to this rule. Some because they wish to feed again. Others out of ideology."
"No offense, but that doesn't seem like a very good ideology," said Beka.
"Magog do not see people as individuals, for the most part," said Rev. "It took me years to see my Wayist brethren for who they were and not merely an extension of the order. The death of one, for us, is merely the death of one aspect of a greater whole."
"So you're a hive mind," guessed Beka.
"Not precisely," said Rev. "We are individuals. But our nature makes it difficult for us to realize the fact.
He glanced up. "What about you, Tyr Anasazi? What musings on your own race go through your head?"
How did he keep doing that?!
"Nothing I intend to tell you," said the Nietzschean.
Then he was gone. Beka removed her hand from where it had been on her gun. "I can't read that guy."
"He radiates death," said Rev.
"Hmm?" said Beka.
"The Nietzschean is one who has seen much death," said Rev. "And caused it. I fear he intends to cause far more."
Harper hadn't signed on for this. Not the mission, hell he'd practically planned it. He'd designed all the equipment, after all. But he hadn't signed on for who he'd been doing it with.
Gerentex had to have known there was a Magog on board.
"Goddamn Magog," he muttered as he put machinery together. "Can't even do a smuggling job without having them crawling down your skin."
"What are you doing?" asked someone.
"Setting up an early warning system," said Harper, not looking up. "If that damn Magog comes within ten meters of my pen, it'll set off an alarm that'll wake the dead." He looked up and saw the Nietzschean. "Oh, it's you. What do you want?"
"Do you know who Gerentex is selling to?" asked Tyr.
"Doesn't really matter to me," said Harper. 'What matters is that I've got a member of an entire race of sociopaths and a damn Magog on the same ship."
"You don't need to worry," said Tyr with a smile. "If I wanted you dead, you would be dead. And no one would even know it was me who had done it."
"Yeah, that's really comforting," said Harper. "What the hell do you want? You Nietzscheans always have some kind of angle?
"The notes on your background said you were from Earth," said Tyr.
"Yeah," said Harper. "One hundred percent earthling born and raised. In my hometown, you had to choose between being a slave to the Nietzscheans or chow for the Magog." He turned back to working on his alarm. "Spent a few years in the resistance. Gerentex was one of our suppliers. He noticed my skills with tech and brought me on board.
"What's it to you?"
"Gerentex is going to sell the Andromeda to the Drago-Kazov Pride," said Tyr.
Harper froze and looked up with a start. "What?"
"Surely, you don't think your employer above selling to the other side, do you?" asked Tyr.
"No, not really," said Harper. "Not Gerentex. But why would you tell me this? Your part of the same little Nietzschean club-" And then Tyr laughed uproariously. "What's so funny?"
"You don't really understand us, do you?" asked Tyr. "We Nietzscheans battle each other more than our enemies. The Drago-Kazov's are my enemies. And I don't intend to let the Andromeda fall into their hands."
"Well, you've got a funny way of stopping them," said Harper.
"Gerentex thinks he approached me," said Tyr. "In reality, I allowed myself to be in the right place and the right time. My underworld contacts recommended me to him."
"So this is an inside job," guessed Harper. "Just why are you approaching me? Want me to join up with you, side with one Nietzschean against another?"
Tyr kneeled by him. "The enemy of my enemy is my friend, as they say.
"What do you think the Drago-Kazov's are going to do once they get their hands on the Andromeda? The ship has some of the most powerful weapons to ever be built. It can destroy entire suns."
"They'll conquer everything," guessed Harper.
"No," said Tyr. "First, they'll crush all of the resistance groups that are left. Then they'll conquer everything."
Harper looked at him. "You're lying."
"Am I? You said yourself that Gerentex would be willing to sell to the Nietzscheans," said Tyr. "Isn't the black hole we're going to near Drago-Kazov territory? How do you think Gerentex will get the Andromeda out to sell to another buyer?"
"I could figure something out," said Harper. He probably could at that. But Gerentex preferred simple solutions.
Tyr stood. "Whether you could or not, as soon as we get the Andromeda out, there will be a Drago Kazov fleet waiting for us."
"Oh look who knows so much," said Harper, standing up. "Gerentex had me set up fields to hide the ship."
"Unfortunately for you, a cloaking shield is of no use if the enemy knows where you are going and when," said Tyr. "And now they do."
Harper thought about what he was saying. "…You didn't kill the spy, did you?"
"She was Drago Kazov," said Tyr. "Sent here by Admiral Cuchulain to observe the situation. By now, she will have reported exactly what we are doing and when."
Well, that was a relief. She'd been nice and nicer looking. Oh wait, she was evil. Shit. "Give me one good reason not to tell Gerentex what you just pulled, asshole."
"Would it help?" asked Tyr. "If Gerentex is selling to the Drago Kazov's, he will do nothing about it. They will still get their prize. And any hope you might have for stopping him will be gone."
"And what if he isn't?" asked Harper.
"It will be your word against mine," said Tyr.
"Yeah, sure. He'll believe the evil, scary black man over the wisecracking good-hearted sidekick," said Harper.
"If Gerentex decides to have me removed, I will remove him," said Tyr with a shrug. "And everyone who supports him."
It was the matter of fact way he said it that scared Harper. Tyr Anasazi genuinely believed he could wipe out everyone on board. And maybe he could. All the mercenaries were in cold storage. The crew was scattered. And Tyr had an ability to sneak up on people.
Harper was alone with him. If he did decide to go to Gerentex, he'd never make it out of this room alive. He suddenly felt very afraid. He tried not to show it. "…There are a dozen mercenaries here and the crew."
"I've had worse odds," said Tyr.
"What the hell do you want, tough guy?" asked Harper.
"Simple," said Tyr. "I'm going to destroy the Drago Kazov Fleet with the Andromeda. And I want you to help me do it."
Harper forced himself to calm down. He needed more info. Why did Tyr even want this? "What do you have against the Drago-Kazov's anyway?" he asked. "They kill your puppy?"
"They butchered my entire clan," said Tyr. "I am Kodiak Pride. The last. And I will see them destroyed in return."
"Okay, so let's say we blow up the Drago Kazov Fleet," said Harper. "What then?"
"Then Gerentex will have no choice but to sell the ship to someone else," said Anasazi with a shrug. "My only interest is in the destruction of my enemies. It doesn't matter to me if my allies make a profit on the side." He offered him a hand.
Well, that didn't leave him many options, did it? Harper sure as hell wasn't going to weep for the Drago-Kazov's. He took the hand. "…Okay, we'll play your game."
Tyr smiled. It wasn't a pleasant smile. "I'm glad to hear it, Master Harper."
Supreme Commander Cuchulain leaned back in his chair, hands clasped together. It had been a quiet few years as he built his ships. The preparations for the conquest of the Than were well underway. Since his initial victories some years ago, he had been busy—busy gathering additional forces.
He had built a fleet larger than anything the Drago Kazov's had seen before. Now he just needed a flagship.
He could have picked a normal one. But why settle for normal when he could have the best?
An ensign looked up. "Supreme Commander Cuchulain. The informant is on the line to speak with you. She says it's urgent."
"Put her on," said Cuchulain.
A blonde woman appeared on the screen. Lesser commanders would have sneered at her for being sterile. Made a few derogatory remarks. But Cuchulain was not a fool. So he smiled warmly. "Ah, Parvati, here you are. I'm guessing from your presence here that something went wrong."
"Yes, sir," said Parvati. "Tyr Anasazi is working for Geretex."
That was bad news. But Cuchulain kept his demeanor. He smiled boyishly. "The Last Kodiak? Well, that could make for a problem or two. Take a scoutship and set out after the Maru. Keep just beyond range.
"I'll follow with the main fleet. Keep us updating on what is happening."
"Yes, sir," said Parvati.
The screen winked out.
"Sir," said an ensign, "shouldn't we take the fleet straight to the rendezvous point."
"No. If we do that, it might spook Gerentex. You can't cloak an entire fleet. Well, you can, but something always goes wrong," said Cuchulain. "We'll gather in the Hephaistos system. That should be close enough to involve ourselves on a moment's notice."
"Yes, sir," said the ensign. "Are you sure we can trust that-"
"Please," laughed Cuchulain, "no slurs on the bridge. Besides, just because she is sterile doesn't mean she can't be of service to us. Treat someone who is regularly mistreated with respect, and they tend to be loyal.
"Or have you forgotten what happened to my predecessor?"
"…Sir, I haven't heard," admitted the ensign.
"Right, you're new," said Cuchulain. "Well, the former Supreme Commander had a penchant for sterile lovers. His way of showing dominance. He was not what one could call a pleasant boyfriend, though.
"I provided a shoulder for one of his conquests to cry on. I gave him a few morale-boosting remarks and convinced them to take their destiny into their own hands."
"You convinced them to murder him," guessed the ensign.
"Well, actually, I thought I was talking them into becoming a Wayist," said Cuchulain. "But murdering my superior and paving the way to my promotion worked too. I was so grateful I gave him a five-day head start before I tried to avenge the Supreme Commander."
"Did it help?" asked the ensign.
Cuchulain smiled. "Not at all."
And enter Cuchulain. I feel that Cuchulain was badly wasted in the original series. The Drago-Kazov's are basically the secondary villains and Tyr's personal nemesis. So they really did need someone to act as a face for the Pride. Cuchulain had an impressive showing in his first episode, only to be made into a cartoon villain in his second appearance and killed offscreen later.
Also, for a one-shot villain who existed only to humanize the Drago-Kazov's Parvati left a definite impression on me. So I figured I'd give her a more prominent role. Now we'll find out if either Cuchulain or Parvati do any better than they did in canon.