Dylan sat in his cabin wondering just what the next few days would bring. After a rather interesting conversation with many of his Nietzschean friends they had agreed to help set up a meeting between him and the prides. A so called council would be called to discuss matters. Gaheris had told him it was not a common thing between the prides, until after they had chosen to betray the Commonwealth.
Of course it hadn't lasted for long. They had set upon one another at the first opportunity and thus left the known worlds open to the Magog. They had seen the weakened state of both what was left of the Commonwealth and the Nietzschean alliance and they had struck in force and laid waste to everything. Nothing but bloody carnage followed and those who survived were plagued by the nightmares of what they had seen in those dark days.
Alex and his crew had witnessed the fall first hand and survived it, but not without being changed by the experience. He and Rommie had been there at the beginning of the fall, but they had not experienced the full horrors of it all. Gaheris was the same as them. They had escaped it all by being frozen in the black hole. He doubted that if things went badly again that they would be so fortunate again. Fortunate he snorted in contempt, sometimes when things were at their worst he felt it would have been better had he and the Andromeda not been frozen, but destroyed during the fall. Luckily he never kept those thoughts for long and they could still save the known worlds if they were lucky.
He owed it to the everyone he knew to try until his dying breathe, for the crews both past and future who had followed him into the fire again and again to stop the long night. If they succeeded then the lives of Beka, Harper, Telemachus Rev if he somehow came to live and even Tyr would be better than they had been. Tyr may have betrayed them in the end, but he had stood by them for three long hard years and helped create the new Systems Commonwealth. Maybe he had lost hope in the dream or maybe he just thought his people could safeguard the known universe better. But for reasons he guessed he would never know Tyr had betrayed them. They hadn't parted as enemies more like estranged friends. He knew Beka had mixed feelings for their former friend and even Harper was conflicted on the matter, but they all harbored hatred for him for bringing about a second fall of civilization.
But that was all part of a future that no longer existed and might never exist if they were lucky. At this moment in time Andromeda was heading for the planet where the meeting with the Nietzschean prides would happen and he had to succeed in convincing them of staying a part of the Commonwealth. He almost jumped as Rommie's holographic self appeared before him, she looked concerned he noted.
"Dylan, are you okay?" she inquired and the mere fact she used his first name showed the integration with Rommie was complete. She was now every bit his Rommie from the future as her avatar was.
"Just thinking a little too deep Rommie," he responded as he ran a tired hand through his hair as he sat up a little in his seat. "A few stray thoughts here and there," he added.
"It is a lot to take in, isn't it?" Rommie responded after a brief silence. "After five long years of getting used to be in the future, of trying to forget all we lost we are now back where we began," she continued. "People who were long dead are suddenly back alive," she added with a grim look on her lovely features. "Including Sara," she paused here and Dylan knew she had just reached one of the biggest personal problems they now faced.
Sara Riley his long dead fiancée was once more alive and she had no clue how he had changed. From his point of view she had died and he had moved on. How was he supposed to feel about this? Then there was the closeness he now shared with Rommie which went far beyond mere friendship or comradeship. They loved one another, it was against all logic and yet it was true. Was there anything they could do about it, especially now that they were back in the old Systems Commonwealth? He didn't know and at the moment there was nothing he or she could do to find an answer.
"I know how you feel," he finally spoke. "I look at the crew out there and have to do all I can not to stare at them. To me they are ghosts of long dead people," he admitted. "Even Sara, it took me a long while to put her behind me and to move on," he went on as he stood and began to pace a little. "Now I have to work out where I actually stand, what I will do if we succeed in our mission," he told her. "What do we do Rommie?" he inquired as he spun and locked his gaze on her.
Rommie didn't know how to really answer him, she was still getting used to all the new information and memories she'd gained from her avatar and it had already changed her far beyond her former programming. Her feelings for Dylan, which had always been within her, were now far more than they had been the day before. Before the fall a romance had been out of the question, hell she hadn't even had an avatar back then. Once in the future that changed thanks to Harper. Her avatar gave her a whole new lease of life and more importantly allowed her to experience a far more broad range of emotions. The most important of course had been love. Having viewed her avatars memories of falling in love with the balance of judgment avatar Gabriel she knew love could be a wonderful thing. However it could also be a very dangerous emotion as well. Gabriel had used her avatars feelings against her and almost destroyed her, Dylan and the entire ship and crew and that worried her. However Dylan was not Gabriel, he would never abuse her trust or her love for him. Of that she was certain, but still Sara was a very big problem in her eyes as was the laws of the Commonwealth. AI's may have all the rights and privileges every other race has, but they were now allowed or even supposed to have relationships.
"I don't know Dylan, I really don't," she finally told him with a helpless shrug. "Is there anything we can do?" she asked. "Sara is alive, well, you are engaged to her and will soon marry her," she reminded him. "I'm an AI. I'm not supposed to have such relationships," she stated almost sounding bitter before she vanished.
Dylan let out a frustrated sigh as he ran a hand through his hair and started to pace again. He doubted Rommie in any of her incarnations would want to see him right now after that discussion. He moved over to the window in his cabin and looked out. There was so much to do and his problem with Sara and Rommie was not that important in the bigger picture.
Trance sat in her own quarters trying to figure out how to tell Dawn she was her daughter. No matter how she thought this through she knew it wasn't going to be easy. Buffy was sure to explode and some of the others might react badly to this news as well. But Dawn deserved to know the truth, although she was sure Dawn would not exactly be happy at first with the news. She had grown up human and even though she knew her memories were false, she still saw herself as the daughter of the long dead Joyce Summers and sister to Buffy.
Xander stood on the bridge unsure how to really proceed with his part of the mission. Dylan had already left with the Andromeda for the big meeting with the Nietzschean prides and in Xander's view Dylan had the easier job. Trying to get enough support for a war against the Magog was really going to be hard. He was well respected in some circles, but nowhere near Dylan and some of the other captains in the High Guard. Still he had to try and do the best he could. He glanced around his bridge as Faith and the others went about their jobs, for them he had to try.
"Ok Faith the bridge is yours," he said, turning to his second in command. "I will be in my quarters making some calls. Call me if something major happens," he added to which she nodded.
"Five by five Captain," Faith shot back with a smile as he began to walk away.
As Xander headed for his quarters Tara soon met him on the way, clearly wanting to discuss something with him. He indicated she should wait until they were in his cabin. Whatever she wants to say might best not be overheard. Once there he quickly sat down and got comfortable, while Tara sat down at his desk. "So Tara, what do you want to discuss?" Xander inquired as he leaned back.
"I did a full scan of the others once I awoke from whatever it was Dawn and Trance did to bring us here," Tara reported with a small smile. "We seem to be in good health with no side effects, although Dawn has yet to regain full strength and is easily tired," she continued. "I recommend you place her on light duties for the next forty eight hours just to be certain her health doesn't gets worse," she advised as she also got comfortable. "I'm worried if she over taxes herself at the moment it could actually harm her," she stated.
"Is it really that bad?" Xander shot back as he leaned forward, concerned by what Tara was indicating. "I thought she'd get her strength back quickly," he admitted.
"No, whatever they did drained her of nearly all her energy," Tara answered. "Remember Dawn is not really human, no matter how much she seems like one. As the key she was made of energy and I'm guessing the loss of nearly all of it could in normal circumstances kill her," she told him with a worried look in her eyes. "Probably the only thing keeping her alive is the curse the powers put on us to keep us alive," she admitted.
Xander instantly got back to his feet and ordered Twilight to inform Dawn she was on light duty for the next forty eight hours. He also had her put the order through to Faith and Buffy as well to ensure his order was carried out. He knew Dawn could sometimes be stubborn, but where her health was concerned he was taking no chances, especially seen as he still believed the powers had revoked the curse that had made them immortal.
"If I'm right we'll all have to be more careful from now on Tara," Xander said as he sat back down. "I'm certain that before we were brought back here by Trance and Dawn the powers revoke the curse. I'm certain they intended us to die finally," he told her.
Tara looked a little surprised by his suggestion, but quickly saw his point. "I'll pass it along to the others when I leave Xan," she told him. "If you are correct then we will have a harder time of completing our mission than we first thought," she concluded.
"I know," Xander agreed with a nod of his head. "Hopefully, if I'm right, we'll still all be here at the end of all off this," he told her, admitting his concern some of them might now make it.
Tara reached across the desk and took his hand in hers. "I'm sure you'll lead us through this as you have with everything else. You took the role Buffy once had before we were cursed and you have done it well," she explained with a smile. "Had Buffy not fallen into such bad depression I'm sure we would be twice as likely to come through this without much trouble, as it is we still have you and we have each other," she stated.
"After all she went through before we were cursed and then what followed it was no surprise she cracked Tara," Xander said with a sigh. "I wish she had managed to handle the loss and the pain of what we've gone through. She held herself responsible for our curse, when in reality we all made our own choice to follow her in rebellion against the powers," he continued as he ran a tired hand through his hair as he remembered some of their past. "At least she is still with us, even after she changed so much. Some of her old spirit still resides within her," he stated confidently.
"Maybe if we actually succeed in our mission she will come back completely," Tara suggested with a hopeful smile that Xander shared. "The last thing I wanted to say was I want you to come to medical so I can scan you as well, just to be safe," she finally changed the topic.
"I'll be down soon. I need to make a start in contacting some of the other captains before I do anything else," Xander replied. "It is not going to be easy, unless of course there was a unknown level of hatred for the Magog and the idea of making peace with them," he admitted thoughtfully, "I don't remember anyone actually complaining about the peace treaty with the Magog the first time around, do you?" he asked as he glanced at her.
"No I don't, but that doesn't mean it didn't exist at all," Tara responded. "It could be that a lot of people disagreed with the treaty, but kept quite knowing it would do no good to speak out against it," she suggested before she stood up. "I'll see you in medical," she told him before she turned and left.
Xander watched her go, wondering exactly how difficult this was going to be. After a few minutes of deep thought he turned on his com system and began to make the first call.
Dawn stared at Twilight in surprise as she relayed Xander's orders and was about to argue when Buffy placed her hand on her shoulders. The look in her eyes said it all and she also noted Faith move to join them. It was clear she would have to obey the order. She also knew there was a good reason for Xander doing this. She was weak and tired from bringing everyone backwards in time with Trance, far more than she had ever felt before in her long life. Nodding her head in agreement she turned and left the bridge and headed for her quarters to rest.
Buffy watched her go, relieved she hadn't put up a fight as she had expected to have to deal with. Her sister was a very stubborn person like their father had been well before he'd left them. She may be a vastly different person to who she had once been, but she still cared greatly for her sister. The only family she still had at least blood wise. Xander, Willow, Giles and the others were family as well, but family she'd chosen as they had chosen her back when they'd been normal humans. The curse inflicted on them by the powers that be had struck them all differently, but she had born the burden of it happening in the first place. As time passed and people they loved died she grew more and more inverted. The pressure she always felt had grown and begun to change how she acted.
"She'll be okay B," Faith's softly spoken voice broke through her morbid thoughts and she turned to her fellow Slayer.
"I know she will be Faith," Buffy agreed with a slight smile. "But Dawn has always liked to push herself. Sometimes beyond her limits and it worries me," she added. "Curse or no curse, I wonder sometimes just how far we can push our bodies," she went on. "How much damage we can take before it is too much, before the powers decide to just finally get rid of us," she finished darkly.
"Yeah I know I've thought that myself a time or two," Faith admitted. "But it isn't up to the powers B, it is up to us," she told her. "We made a choice to step out from their control, that is why we followed you all those years ago and not once have any of us regretted it, no matter what you may think personally," she explained at Buffy's quick glance at her. "You didn't fail us B. I know a lot of us look to Xander now to lead us, but that is mostly down to the fact he seems to fit the High Guard so very well, probably thanks to those military memories he got way back," she continued. "But in the end nothing has changed, in the end you are still the leader of our group and we will follow you if you ever want to reclaim that," she stated with what she hoped was a confident voice.
Buffy stared at her friend for a few moments in surprise, having not heard anything so deep from her, at least not often, maybe she had a point. For long she'd the past rule her actions in the now. Maybe she should not lose all hope just yet. Maybe it was time she pulled herself together again, for her family and for the rest of the universe they were trying so very desperately to save. Maybe it was time to let go of the blame she'd held onto for so long.
"Thanks Faith," she finally said. "Maybe you are right, maybe it is time I got myself back together," she admitted with a sheepish smile. "I know it will not be as easy as I make it out, but I can try," she added. "But I don't think I'll take lead again, not while we are High Guard. As you said this is where Xander excels and I won't take it from him and I would not want my own ship and break apart our group," she went on and her smile grew as she turned and walked away.
Faith watched her go, relieved her words had finally gotten through. "It's about damn time B," she whispered and hopefully her fellow Slayer would manage to get herself back together. She turned and went back to her station, nodding at Willow and Giles as she did so.
(Darkness of Space)
The Abyss had finally come up with a response to the actions of its hated enemies and their chosen vessels. It would rain down blood and destruction on the known universe even earlier than it had planned. The Magog would lay waste to everything they could, even without the world ship that was galaxies away they were more than a match for the Commonwealth, even if it hadn't been weakened yet by civil war.
The powers watched with growing anger as events continued to turn in favor of the rebellious pawns who had done nothing but upset their plans. Even the blond Slayer who had led her fool friends into rebelling was somehow beginning to regain her true self. One of the best things their curse had done was to break the blonds' spirit. They cursed the sun avatar, but still found no way to make her pay or for them to stop them succeeding in actually saving the known universe, but they were certain such an opportunity would come, it had to.