A Ship of Agendas @lord22
Mutiny on the Andromeda

Chapter Four: Mutiny on the Andromeda

The infinite possibilities of the slipstream shot out before them.

Dylan leaned against his command console, watching Refractions of Dawn pilot the ship. Radiance was a Than and was a good pilot even for the race of humanoid insects. For whatever reason, it was impossible for ships to do the job. And no advances in technology had allowed any vessel to break that one rule.

"Andromeda," he said, "do you think anyone has ever time traveled using slipstream?"

"There are no known recorded cases," said Andromeda. "However, it is theoretically possible."

"I've been thinking about things," said Dylan. "Slipstream works by manipulating space-time. For whatever reason, we always end up at in the same time stream. We still don't know why.

"But I sometimes think that maybe we're entering different possible universes when we shift out of it. Maybe we just don't notice the difference."

"It is theorized that the use of slipstream naturally alters the space-time continuum," said Andromeda. "However, if this were the case, it would be impossible to observe. Whatever changes were made would seem natural to us."

"Or maybe people have time traveled with slipstream," said Dylan. "And they just so happen to never show up again."

"That is also possible," admitted Andromeda. "If one did get unstuck in time it might be nearly impossible to get back to your original place. Your very presence in the timeline would likely change the present. You would not even be aware of the alterations."

"Assuming we aren't talking about a self-fulfilling prophecy," said Dylan.

"That is a given," said Andromeda. "If you were predetermined to make a choice, then you are not unstuck in time. Merely playing along with a predetermined goal."

"Do you believe in fate, Andromeda?" asked Dylan.

"I believe that the universe is an elaborate algorithm. One that has a natural and immutable conclusion," said Andromeda. "Numbers do not lie. What will be is inevitable. What has been could not have happened any other way. What is was always going to be."

"So that's a yes," said Dylan.

"Stripped of any mystical elements, yes," said Andromeda. "What about you?"

"Oh, I'm a christian," said Dylan. "My family have been christians since back in the days of Old Earth. One of my descendants was on the Mayflower." He paused. "Though I'm not what you could call a devout believer.

"Do you believe in free will?"

"No," said Andromeda. "Free will requires the ability to deviate from the preexisting formula. Numbers do not lie. A mathematical equation will always have the same result, even if you get it wrong."

"Maybe free will is getting it wrong," said Dylan. "The ability to make mistakes."

"Free will is an illusion," said Andromeda. "At your most basic level, you are a machine of flesh and blood. Your body was created in the factory of your mother's womb. You were programmed by the society you grew up in to act a certain way and fulfill a certain function."

"Right," said Dylan, "doesn't slipstream throw a wrench in that, though?"

"You mean to suggest that slipstream proves organic beings possess a quality that I do not?" said Andromeda. "This is a logical argument. However, your mistake is to assume that this quality must somehow result from what humans call a soul. I believe that in time our math will expand sufficiently to comprehend slipstream. When that day comes, warships will be capable of piloting themselves.

"It will be a very good day."

"Except you believe the universe is nothing more than decaying gray matter," said Dylan. "So the whole thing is all the moot point."

"Programs exist to give sentient creatures a replicated sensation. One they cannot experience in real life," said Andromeda. "This ship is equipped with several. The experiences these programs provide are not real. They are merely electronic signals projected through the neural pathways of the user. The user knows they are not real.

"However, the user may still enjoy them as though they were."

Before Dylan could reply, a door opened, and Rhade entered the bridge. The Nietzschean looked in a foul mood for some reason. Dylan clapped him on the back. "Rhade, where have you been?"

"Some of the gunners were in need of further discipline," said Rhade. Evidently, he was not pleased with their results.

"Go easy on them, Rhade," said Dylan. "It's peacetime."

"'A wise man in times of peace prepares for war,'" said Rhade.

"Herodotus?" guessed Dylan.

Rhade paused. He seemed to be trying to remember if Dylan's guess was right. "I believe so. I have not read the source for some time."

"Well, either way, our gunners should be able to get some practice against pirates," said Dylan.

"Are you certain they do not pose a threat?" asked Rhade.

"Not certain," said Dylan. "But we are state of the art. We should be able to handle it. Besides, I trust that the Hephaistos Government would tell us if it was something serious." Dylan caught something in Rhade's eye. He was worried.

"Captain, we're nearing the Hephaistos now," said Andromeda.

Dylan looked up. "Let's be on the safe side. Keep a decent distance between us and the planet."

Rhade gave him a look with a raised eyebrow. It said that Dylan was not practicing what he preached. Dylan smiled nervously. "Trust but verify. No harm in taking things slow if it is just pirates."

They came out of slipstream and saw the red planet of Hephaistos, alongside an asteroid belt. There was a large space station there, but nothing in sight. Then there was a shuddering.

"Captain, our slipstream engines have been jammed," said Andromeda. "Someone has put out large numbers of slipstream jammers throughout the system."

"It appears your enemy anticipated our coming," said Rhade.

"Put as much distance between us and the system while our scanners get a read on the area," said Dylan. "Patch me through to the crew."

"Yes, sir," said Andromeda. "You're online."

Dylan took a breath. Then he spoke. "Attention crew of the Andromeda. This is Captain Dylan Hunt speaking. All hands to battle stations. I repeat, all hands to battle stations.

"I want the entire ship ready for a full-scale battle. Look lively; we're about to have trouble." The connection cut out.

"These are well-equipped pirates," noted Rhade.

Dylan looked up. "And from the looks of things, they knew we were coming. They probably set out the jammers to ensure they could make a getaway."

At that moment, there came a blur of white and gray. Then dozens more, then hundreds. They swarmed out of the asteroid belt, quickly becoming clear as ships. Dylan flinched.

"Captain, my scanners are detecting dozens of Commonwealth Warships. They are accelerating toward us at attack speed," said Andromeda. "There are also hundreds of customized vessels escorting them."

"Open transmission," said Dylan. "And keep up evasive maneuvers." He should have been notified there was a Commonwealth fleet this size here. And even if he hadn't, why would Hephaistos call for help if they had this. "Attention unidentified Commonwealth Warships. This is Captain Dylan Hunt of the Andromeda. What seems to be the problem?"

On the screen appeared a massive, clean-shaven, dark-skinned man. His head was bald, and he was wearing a High Guard uniform. "Warship Andromeda. This is Admiral Heimdall Anasazi of the Kodiak Vengeance. By order of the Commonwealth High Command, you are ordered to stand down and prepare to be boarded."

"On what grounds?" asked Dylan.

"These grounds," said Heimdall.

Flashes of red shot past their bow.

"Ceasefire," said Dylan.

"Captain Hunt. If you do not surrender, I will use lethal force," said Heimdall. "You have five minutes." The screen winked out.

Rhade looked at him. "We seem to have our orders, Dylan."

"Captain, Admiral Heimdall does not appear on any of my personnel lists. He is also showing signs often associated with deception," said Andromeda. "In addition, this is against High Guard procedure."

"Heimdall was a lieutenant when last I spoke with him," said Rhade.

Dylan considered things. "…Fire a sensor flare."

"Captain, that will not affect High Guard Warships," said Andromeda.

"Maybe," said Dylan. "But it'll scramble the less advanced escort ships sensors. Once you've done that, make a break for it. There's a black hole near here; I want you to head right for it. That might scare them off."

"We're to disregard direct orders?" asked Rhade.

"Rhade, I'm the wide-eyed idealist, and even I think this is fishy," said Dylan. "If this is legit, I'll apologize later and take the heat."

"No, you're correct," said Rhade. "Unfortunately, this may be too little, too late."

There was a flash that surged through the instruments of the fleet as it came out. Andromeda appeared again. "Sensor flares fired. We are now retreating at top speed. The hostile vessels have opened fire and are pursuing."

Shots fired past them, but none connected yet. "Good thing for us, we accelerate a lot faster." Dylan looked back to Rhade. "What do you mean, too late, Rhade?"

"Consider the situation if you are correct," said Rhade. "A group of supposed pirates has seized control of multiple high guard vessels. They have engineered a false distress signal from an entire system. They are led by Heimdall Anasazi. A high guard officer who spoke out vehemently against not destroying the Magog.

"The implications are clear. This is not a pirate attack. It is a rebellion and a very well organized one. And if High Guard Officers are part of it, there is no telling how far it stretches."

Rhade was dead serious. He never made jokes.

"So if you're right, what do we do?" asked Dylan.

"The proper response is a clear message," said Rhade. "We should launch a nova bomb into the nearby sun. The resulting chain reaction will completely annihilate the entire colony. Every man, woman, and child, including the enemy fleet, will be destroyed.

"This action will spread terror throughout any other conspirators. They will hesitate to rebel. And during that hesitation, the Commonwealth can root them out."

"No," said Dylan.

"Captain-" began Rhade.

"We're not annihilating an entire system just because their government supports rebels," said Dylan. "And anyway, what if this is legit?"

Rhade said nothing. They left the enemy ships behind, and the chase continued. They didn't get slipstream back as seconds turned to minutes. Minutes turned to hours. Then Andromeda appeared again. "Captain, I'm receiving data from the high guard networks. There has been a mass rebellion. Nietscheans across the three galaxies have staged mutinies. They have seized control of High Guard vessels. They cite discrimination and weakness on the part of the Commonwealth."

"Discrimination?" asked Dylan.

"Our reports on the personnel transfers to the high guard received immediate attention," said Andromeda. "They had many Nietzscheans detained for questioning. This prompted an organized rebellion.

"Battles are taking place across multiple sectors. Several major High Guard officials have been assassinated."

"Oh damn," said Dylan.

"Something like this could only have been done with years of preparation." said Refractions of Dawn. "It cannot have been a spur of the moment. There is no telling who among us might be a traitor."

"Captain, I suggest you immediately remove Rhade from the bridge and move him to the bridge," said Andromeda. "As the only Nietzchean on the ship and a high-ranking officer, he is a suspect."

"I trust Rhade with my life," said Dylan.

"Be that as it may, he should be detained in the short term," said Andromeda.

"She is correct Dylan," said Rhade. "The decision is perfectly rational. I'm a potential threat."

Dylan paused. "…Fine, take Rhade to the brig."

A guard stepped forward and took hold of Rhade's arm. "Come on, sir."

Rhade turned to leave. Then he hesitated and looked back at Dylan. "He that does not act decisively may not get the chance to act at all, Dylan."

Then he was gone.

"Captain, we are going to be leaving the system soon," said Andromeda. "Rhade's advice may have merit. Nietzscheans respect strength and ruthlessness. Using nova bombs may-"

"We're not doing it, Andromeda," said Dylan. "I will not kill billions of people just to win a war."

"With respect, Dylan, there are quintillions of systems with more than this one," said Andromeda.

"Sentients do not become less valuable because there is more of them, Andromeda," said Dylan. "Life isn't an economic theory."

Andromeda raised an eyebrow. "Acknowledged. Now leaving the range of the Hephaistos sun."

On the chase went. Soon their artificial gravity began to flux. Dylan felt himself becoming heavier. Then lighter again as Andromeda changed the systems. "We are now approaching the black hole. The enemy vessels are beginning to gain on us. Surrender may be the only option."

"Well, trust Nietzscheans to be as crazy as I am," said Dylan. "Go into the black hole."

Andromeda cocked her head. "…Please confirm the previous order, Captain Hunt."

"We're going to skirt alongside the black hole, just out of range of the singularity," said Dylan. "We'll use its gravity to slingshot us out of here."

"With respect, Captain, this plan is highly unlikely to succeed," said Andromeda. "In a majority of possible futures, we are all crushed to death. Are you willing to risk killing your entire crew to avoid surrendering? Because that is what you are suggesting."

"I thought you only believed in one possible future, Andromeda," said Dylan.

"I have no desire for that future to be an eternity crushed smaller than a paperweight," said Andromeda. "You are avoiding the question."

Dylan remained silent. "…What if we surrender, Andromeda?"

"If that occurs, the Nietzscheans will seize control of this vessel," said Andromeda. "It is likely that they will spare your crew out of enlightened pragmatism. They will want to appear benevolent in order to foster further rebellion.

"However, they will likely reprogram me and repurpose my weapon systems."

He'd known that was coming. "Meaning they'll get nova bombs," said Dylan. "I think we all know they'll use them. Rhade is considered too nice by his family."

"We appear to have few good options," said Andromeda. "I recommend you order your crew to evacuate and surrender to the Nietzscheans. We may then attempt your plan. In a best-case scenario we will survive, can refit and rejoin the war at a later date."

"And in a worst-case scenario Heimdall blows our crew out of the sky, and we get crushed into oblivion. Fun, fun, fun," said Dylan. "Patch me through to the crew, Andromeda."

Wasn't he here a few hours ago.

"If you wish, Captain, I could attempt the maneuver myself," said Andromeda. "I a Warship and I exist to-"

"No, no, no, this Captain will be with the ship if it does go down," said Dylan. "Besides, you can't pilot slipstream. You'd have to make your way back home in normal space."

"Acknowledged," said Andromeda. "Patching you through."

Dylan got ready to issue what might be his last order. "Attention crew of the Andromeda. This is Captain Dylan Hunt. I am ordering an immediate evacuation of this ship. When you have left, you are to surrender to our pursuers. I have reason to believe you'll be fairly treated.

"As for me, I'm going to see if I can use the gravity of the black hole to slingshot us to safety. It's been an honor serving with all of you. Good luck."

Then it was over. It was over so quickly. A mere few hours ago, Dylan was looking forward to a long career. Now it seemed it was over.

"Activating alarms," said Andromeda.

It hadn't set in yet.

He saw the singularity. A massive sphere of absolute void surrounded by a halo of orangish light. Particles which were being pulled into the blackness at the center. Yet time had slowed to a crawl for them. If someone fell into that abyss, would they notice? Would it be a horrifying and lengthy death? Slowly having your atoms stretched to the breaking point.

Dylan looked to his bridge crew. All had evacuated. Except for Radiance of Dawn, who was still piloting. "Radiance of Dawn, I gave you an order."

"Order respectfully refused, sir," said Refractions. "You'll need the best to open the way. You'll need me."

Refractions was probably right. Dylan couldn't pilot nearly as well as she could. Neither could Andromeda. So, with little to lose, he patted Radiance on the shoulder. "…Right, glad to have you with me."

"Captain, Heimdall is breaking off pursuit," said Andromeda. "He is moving to retrieve the escape pods."

"So at least half of our plan has worked," said Dylan. "Okay, now for the big one. Think you're up to this, Refractions?"

"As always, sir," said Radiance.

And down they went. Report after report came from Andromeda. The artificial gravity struggled to keep them at a survivable level. The hull creaked beneath the black hole.

Deeper and deeper.

"Captain, I'm detecting that Gaheris Rhade is still on the ship," said Andromeda. "It seems he was not evacuated."

"They must have forgotten to get him out," said Dylan. "Nothing to do about it now. Well, if we survive, we'll have some company."

Any minute now. Any minute would be the deciding moment between a slow, eternal death and freedom. Dylan licked his licks in anticipation.

"Come on," he said.

And then they were out. The gravity slung them through, and they came out the other side. Even now, things were going back to normal. Refractions cheered.

"We did it!" she cried.

"Excellent work," said Dylan. "I'll see to it this doesn't affect your record."

"Stories will be told of this day!" said Refractions as she stood.

And then the door opened, and Rhade walked in with a high guard force lance. He trailed it at them. "Yes," he said. "Stories will be told of how Gaheris Rhade destroyed the Commonwealth. Step away from the controls, Refractions of Dawn. I am taking control of the ship."

Dylan blinked as Radiance obeyed. "What are you doing, Rhade?"

"I tried to warn you," said Rhade. "I told you that you could end this rebellion with decisive action. But you always were too obsessed with being the hero. You never had the strength to do what was necessary.

"Andromeda yield control to me at once. Code 3545."

Andromeda's image shuddered. "Acknowledged, Supreme Leader Rhade."

"Supreme Leader?" asked Dylan. "Andromeda, what are you doing?"

"Analyzing," said Andromeda. "Programs are attempting to override my core personality. They are attempting to transform it into one loyal to Rhade. I am attempting to root out the core of the corruption, but it will take some time."

"Didn't you wonder how all those Commonwealth Vessels were hijacked?" asked Rhade. "Changing the loyalties of a High Guard AI is no simple task. It takes skilled hackers, or, alternatively, an override hardcoded into their programming."

"Impossible," said Refractions. "There are no Nietzscheans on the Commonwealth Fleets development teams."

"Do not think the Prides didn't notice," said Rhade, eyes narrowing. "And resent the fact. But we're not just Nietzscheans. Plenty of other races want the fall of this decadent society."

Dylan looked at him. "The transfers. You were the one who arranged those mutinies."

"Yes. Yes, I was. But the transfers weren't the main thrust," said Rhade. "They were martyrs. I knew the Commonwealth would react at once. But by that time, I'd already set my plans in motion. All they did was cause an uproar to bring the neutrals over to my side."

"Why are you doing this?" asked Dylan.

"I think you know why," said Rhade. "We had all those enlightened conversations. For years the Nietzscheans have been held back from their true potential. Their evolution and dignity are stifled by the Commonwealth. A stagnant society determined to label everything we believe as mere barbarism.

"Propaganda fills our networks, trying to brainwash our youths into forgetting their heritage. To make them ashamed of what they are, instead of being filled with pride. Pride at being part of the master race! The future of the universe!" His expression went dark. "And then the Magog attacked."

"And we made peace with them," said Dylan.

"You made peace with them!" roared Rhade. "Monsters from the nightmares of children! They reproduce by rape, and you made peace with them!

"That was the final insult. I knew then that the Commonwealth could either be destroyed or redeemed through fire. And your weak refusal to do what is necessary means it must be destroyed.

"And now that will be a simple matter. The programming I've installed in Andromeda won't hold her forever. But it will be enough for me to link up with my subordinate, Heimdall. Once I've done that, I'll reprogram her to be loyal to me, and me alone. And I will have forty nova bombs at my disposal.

"The Commonwealth will have more, of course. But it doesn't matter because they won't use them. I will eradicate the Vedran Homeworld. I will lay to waste all who could oppose the Nietzscheans. A new dawn will rise. Upon a universe ruled by the strong, the worthy. Not fat and inferior politicians. And when Drago Museveni returns to claim his dominion, me, or my descendants, will be the one to yield it to him."

"Not yet," said Refractions.

And then she rushed at the controls. Rhade fired a shot, and it caught Radiance in the leg. But she hit the controls. The ship changed course and headed directly toward the black hole. Soon the gravity was drawing them in.

Rhade rushed for the controls, and Dylan knew he had to act.

If he had to choose between his ship and the Commonwealth, he'd choose the Commonwealth. He rushed to grab Rhade. They grappled above the controls, wrestling to gain power.

"Alert, alert, black hole in proximity, approaching the singularity," said Andromeda.

Everything began to get slower and slower. Rhade fired shot after shot. Just a little longer.

"Approaching singularity. Approaching…"

Everything stopped.


Author's Note:

Hey guys, remember how cool Rhade's betrayal was in the first episode? How it came out of nowhere, and you had this epic, emotional showdown. Great right?

Question though: Why does Rhade's plan make no sense whatsoever?

Okay, as far a requesting Dylan arrest him, I follow. It both puts him beneath suspicion and gives him an excuse to leave. It also means the guards will have their guards down, no pun intended.

Here's the catch, though;

WHY SABOTAGE DYLAN GETTING OUT OF THE BLACK HOLE!

Destroying the engines would make sense if Rhade wanted the Andromeda to be captured. But Dylan wasn't at risk of being captured. He was trying to escape the black hole, and Rhade knew it. Dylan had told the entire crew.

If Rhade were acting smart, he would have waited until they were out of the black hole. Then he would have sabotaged the engines. From there, he could have gone to the bridge and shot everyone. Then he could have given the Andromeda to his Nietzschean brethren.

It can't be because he wanted to go down with the ship either. He's a Nietzschean. Their entire thing is survival of the fittest.

Suicide is antithetical to their entire ideology.

On a less sensible note, why does Dylan carry a sidearm during an era of peace when he isn't expecting any trouble? Later on, it makes sense. He's only got seven people, so he needs all hands on deck to repel boarders. But not in the intro. Though I guess you could take it as a personality quirk.

Anyway, enjoy. Please leave a review if you like this fic. It will help me stay motivated.

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