Chapter Five: Lifeline
The Maru was in transit and Harper was on watch. Slipstream was annoying. Because it existed outside of time and space, you could never pin down how long it would take to get anywhere. Only when you would arrive.
A one day trip could feel like weeks. A weeklong trip could feel like ten seconds. It was weird.
As it turned out luck was on their side. They departed slipstream and Harper raised the microphone to his lips. "Ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain, Seamus Harper. We have just passed beyond the Hephaistos System. We are now approaching our destination. When we get near the black hole, please remember to keep your arms and legs inside the vehicle. Otherwise, you may be sucked into the singularity and crushed down to the size of an atom.
"Company not responsible for-"
Someone reached out and snatched the com from him. He looked up to see Beka sitting down in another seat. "Knock it off, will you? This is my ship."
"Well excuse me, Princess." said Harper. "You know sitting here on watch isn't exactly fun, right? I've had math exams that are more interesting."
"Both of you quiet down." said Geretex as he entered. "Now is the critical moment.
"Harper, have the temporal cables been assembled."
Harper sighed. "You got it, boss. I set em up thirty minutes ago. One shot of these things and we'll be able to lock on to the Andromeda easy."
"How do these work again?" asked Trance as she entered.
"The cables create an antigravity field that should counteract the black hole." said Harper. "Keep in mind though; we've only got one shot. See this kind of tech is experimental, and uh, well, not exactly easy to test."
"No much of a market for black hole diving?" asked Beka.
"Yeah." said Harper. "I mean some people theorize that if you enter a black hole, you'll end up in another universe. I wouldn't know. Nobody who tested the theory has ever come back.
"But if I work on this tech a bit, maybe someday we'll find out. Still, I'm not exactly the kind of guy who wants to leap head first in, if you know what I mean. I'm more the dashing scientist guy."
"Yeah. I can believe that." said Beka.
The rest of the crew was soon assembled. Rev took a seat far away from Harper. Meanwhile, Tyr stood at the back, arms crossed and eyes calculating. They looked as the black whole grew larger. It was a bleak void surrounded by orangish yellow. Just looking at it sucked the life out of Harper.
"Trance, Rev, how is the scanning going?" asked Beka.
Rev looked up. "We are attempting to find the Andromeda. However, our scanners are being disrupted. If it has gone too far into the black hole, we will never find it."
"It has not gone too far." said Geretex. "I have run calculations, and I know the exact point it entered. From there I calculated its trajectory.
"It should be located, there."
"Wait a minute, how can you know the exact point?" asked Trance.
"Relatively speaking." said Geretex. "There is always room for error. But if you must know, some associates of mine have access to footage of the Andromeda. From people who saw it entering the black hole in the first place.
"Is it there?"
Rev remained silent. "…Nothing.
"The ship may have been destroyed by unforeseen events. Perhaps weapons fire damaged its artificial gravity. If that happened then, the Andromeda would have surely been destroyed."
"Now hang on a second." said Harper. "Why would old hunty boy go into the black hole if he knew it would kill him?"
"Think, you imbecile." said Geretex. "The ship had some of the most powerful weapons in the history of the universe on it. If the nietzscheans had it, they could have used it to conquer the Commonwealth that much faster.
"But when we get it, we will be able to sell them for just as much.'
"And who are we going to be selling to?" asked Harper. No harm in asking.
"Don't concern yourself with that." said Geretex. "Concern yourself with finding the ship. Andromeda may have altered course while entering the gravity field."
Harper looked to Tyr. It was obvious Geretex wasn't going to reveal his plans just yet. Time to put on the Harper charm. He approached Geretex as the nightsider paced back and forth. "Hey boss, I've been thinking. We're near Drago Kazov territory, right?"
"Yes." said Geretex. "That much is true."
"Well I'm just afraid that some big nietzschean fleet is gonna show up out of nowhere and steal our prize." said Harper.
"The matter has already been accounted for by your stealth field, has it not?" asked Geretex.
"Sure. Sure." said Harper. "Still, seems like it might be a lot easier to sell to the nearest buyer, if you know what I mean."
Geretex looked at him. "The nearest buyer is not always the highest bidder. We'll get the Andromeda somewhere safe. Then we'll find our client."
So maybe Geretex wasn't working for the Drago Kazov's. Maybe he was doublecrossing them, though. "Right, sounds good."
They waited and waited. Geretex grew more and more impatient. Every so often he would bite his own nails. Finally, he looked up to Trance. "Well?"
"Still nothing." said Trance.
"Keep looking, it must be there somewhere." said Geretex. "We've invested too much into this to fail now!"
"Um, Mr. Geretex?" asked Trance.
"Yes, what is it?" asked Geretex.
"I had a thought. Dylan Hunt got his position as a Captain by doing commando missions, right?" asked Trance. "He wasn't a career naval officer."
"Yes." said Geretex. "He was one of those insufferable figureheads. Meant to represent the ideals of the Commonwealth. The ones that make everyone with half a brain sick to hear. What is your point?'
"Well, commandos take risks all the time." said Trancer. "One of the riskiest maneuvers a ship can take is to use a star's gravity to slingshot them out of the orbit. It's a technique I've seen in action.
"Maybe Dylan wasn't trying to sacrifice himself. Maybe he was trying to escape."
Geretex considered that. "Hmm, that would require a certain adjustment of calculations. Step aside, my dear. I intend to do this." He shoved Trance aside and began typing quickly. "Hmm, yes, that would be the logical angle." Then he stood.
"Yes! Here we are at last! Rev, turn the sensors to this location at once."
"You're really good at math, aren't you." asked Trance.
"My dear, I have an absolute mastery of it." said Geretex. "When you break down the universe, everything is math. He who calculates correctly will gain the sum of all creation."
"Is that a famous quote?" asked Trance.
"It may be one day." admitted Geretex. "I thought of it just now."
"Geretex, we've found it." said Rev.
Geretex smiled. "…Excellent work all of you. Beka, take us to just outside these coordinates."
As the Maru adjusted its course, there was a beeping. Beka read it. "Geretex, I'm picking something up."
"What is it?" asked Geretex.
"There is a Drago Kazov scout ship watching us." said Beka. "I couldn't detect if before because of the gravity."
"Damn. So Cuchulain has caught on, has he?" said Geretex. "Shoot them down, quickly."
Beka paused. "Are you sure-"
"Do you want us all to die?" asked Geretex. "Shoot it!"
"…Roger that." said Beka.
The weapons on the Maru were unleashed. But the vessel swerved aside. As flares of light shot across the sky, the vessels dodged and weaved. Soon it was flying away.
"Damn it, he's good whoever he is." said Beka.
Then it warped away in a blur. The space was empty.
"They're gone." said Beka. "Should I pursue."
"There is not point." said Geretex. "We must accelerate our schedule. Begin pulling out the Andromeda. We have two hours to complete our business here."
"Two hours?" asked Harper.
"That is how long it will take for Cuchulain to move his fleet here, assuming he was expecting a betrayal." said Geretex. "It is possible that the scout ship will take some time to reach him. However, he may have made other arrangements."
"What kind of other arrangements?" asked Harper.
"I do not know." admitted Geretex. "But he is no fool."
"Right, so what's the plan once we get the Andromeda?" asked Beka.
"We gain control of its systems." said Geretex. "That will be the real problem. From there we threaten to blow it up if they open fire. Then we can negotiate."
"But they still end up with the ship, whether they pay us or not?" noted Beka.
"The alternative is to make a run for it and be hunted down." said Geretex. "I had hoped to sell the ship at auction. But that no longer seems to be an option."
"We're in cable range, Geretex." said Rev.
"Good." said Geretex. "Take aim and launch."
Harper watched as they prepared the cables. He crossed his fingers. This was the big moment. Make or break time.
The cables were launched into the clouds? Had they missed? Was the antigravity system failing?
"Got it." said Beka. "We're reeling the ship out now."
Harper breathed a sigh of relief. Then Geretex put a hand to his shoulder. "Harper, go wake up our mercenary friends. We may need them."
"For what?" asked Harper.
"More than the ship may have survived." said Geretex.
So that was it. Geretex wasn't afraid of Tyr. Not just Tyr. He was afraid that Captain Hunt, Legendary Commonwealth Hero, would be on board. And if he was, they would probably kill him.
Weird. Harper had grown up on stories about the great Commonwealth. He and his cousins used to play starship captain, when they weren't hiding from Magog. Now he was probably going to help Geretex kill the last remnant.
What did it matter? The Commonwealth had been dead for centuries. All that was left was a memory. "Right."
He turned and walked out of the bridge.
"It is as I told you." said Tyr behind him.
Harper whirled around, hand going to his gun. He breathed out. "Ah! Jeez, could you not do that?"
"I could." admitted Tyr. "However, I prefer it this way."
"Fine, okay, you're right." said Harper. "You win a prize. Geretex is being forced to sell to the Drago Kazov's. Happy now?"
"Very." said Tyr. "Fortunately for us, we have all the power we need in the Andromeda. Once we gain control of the weapons, we can destroy them."
"News flash, big guy. Andromeda had nova bombs as a payload." said Harper. "Nova bombs need suns to use. Without one there isn't a chain reaction to start.
"How are you going to kill an entire fleet without one, huh?"
Tyr laughed. "Master Harper, if there is one thing I have learned it is that you can kill anyone with anything.
"You just need to find the right time and place."
"Oh that's real reassuring." said Harper. "I'm going to get your friends woken up. How about you grab your gun before we all die of old age."
"As you like it." said Tyr.
"Freaking psycho." muttered Harper as he stalked off.
This was going to be a long day. One thing Harper knew for sure though. He wasn't going to let the Drago Kazov's get their filthy hands on the Andromeda.
That had been too close.
As Parvati surged through the slipstream she wiped sweat from her face. She'd almost had it there. Coming out into the Hephaistos System she sent out a channel.
"Supreme Leader Cuchulain, this is Parvati. I need to speak with you."
Cuchulain appeared. "Ah, Parvati. A couple of scorch marks are on your vessel. What's the status?"
"Geretex attempted to destroy me as soon as I was detected." said Parvati. "He must have been planning to doublecross us from the start."
"Or he may have decided that your presence meant we were planning to doublecross him." noted Cuchulain. "Sometimes it's hard to figure out. Either way, we were just about to set out. Come aboard. Our ETA to the Andromeda is one hour."
So I feel that Geretex was something of a wasted opportunity in the original show. He could have been one of the main cast. His desire for profit could have made for an excellent foil against Hunt.
Also, I feel that Cuchulain was wasted as well. The Drago Kazov's really did need a face to represent them. Oh well. Enjoy.