Having heard something, Rhade asked, "Andromeda, what's going
on in the hall?"

The hologram popped into appearance and answered, "Trance is
running through the hallways yelling that Harper is trying to kill
her. She has now stopped at your door."

"She's still yelling." It seemed that she expected him to open the
door. He would find out what was going on faster if he let her into
his office. Annoyed, he opened the door.

"He's trying to kill me!" she yelled as she ran in, clutching some
kind of computer board. Rhade didn't even see Harper yet.

He'd been aware for some time that Trance played games. Her act
of coy innocence and ignorance grated on his nerves, and he could
foresee a time when he'd tell her that she could accomplish more
without the attempts at manipulation. That time might be soon,
since she'd "accidentally" flown them here, to this particular time,
for this event. There had to be a reason why.

Harper finally ran into the hall, out of breath. Rhade caught Trance
smirking before she changed her expression to one of "fear." At
the very least he should tell her that she wasn't as good an actress
as she thought herself to be.

"I can explain," Harper gasped.

"Do so," Rhade answered.

"Harper's trying to blow up the whole nebula," Trance said

"Trance!" Harper yelled.

"I told Harper to explain, but that would be a good place to start."

Harper's expression shifted back and forth, back and forth, from
bland subservience to hard, cold determination, probably as he
tried to decide what would serve him better here. Rhade had
noticed before that Harper had compartmentalized his personality,
perhaps as a survival technique on the enslaved Earth he'd come
from. Harper chose a cool, hard voice. "I don't want to blow up the

"But you might!" Trance said.

"It would be worth it to destroy the Nietzschean fleet."

Rhade had received opinions from Tyr, Beka, Andromeda, and
Rev on what they should do in their unprecedented opportunity to
affect the history of the war and the Long Night but had missed
Harper. The willingness to destroy 500 ships carrying 5,000 lives
and perhaps the High Guard fleet with them showed something
almost Nietzschean in Harper's character. The willingness to die
himself in the effort, not so much.

He could understand how someone who'd lived under the Dragans
would hate Nietzscheans so much. More than any other Pride, the
Dragans showed the degeneracy contemporary Nietzscheans had
fallen into. A race meant to be warrior-poets had become
bullyboys, thugs.

"Explain how this would work," Rhade said.

"After blinding Andromeda's internal sensors, I made
modifications to key systems of her power core that will allow
me to cause a single cataclysmic explosion in the nebula. I'm
using the Maru's database to find the exact time the Nietzschean
fleet will be in position for me."

Andromeda's hologram reappeared and asked in a dangerous tone
of voice, "You blinded my sensors and tampered with me?"

"While you guys were frozen in a black hole, the rest of us had to
live through Nietzscheans and Magog attacks and shit like you
would not believe. I may not know exactly what future I might be
creating here, but it has to be better than what Earth went through
over the last few centuries." Harper's eyes nearly blazed in his
zeal. "I can't believe we're just going to take off when we have the
opportunity to fix something that went wrong. It goes completely
against my nature."

Will to Power.

But it wasn't Harper's decision to make. "Andromeda, confine
Harper to his quarters and prevent his access to any systems. We'll
be leaving here as I originally planned."

Harper made a sound of protest but said nothing, sensing when
he'd lost.

"Yes, Commander," Andromeda said, and an electric charge
zapped Harper, who yelled.

"He has internal hardware. Don't damage him."

She made an annoyed sound of assent but chased Harper down the
hall to his quarters with more zaps.

"I'll take that device," Rhade said to Trance, and she handed it
over with a bright smile and an unintelligent look. As she started
to leave, he asked, "Is there any intelligence you want to share
with me, Trance? I'm a much better ally when I'm informed."

The look she cast back at him was almost nervous. "Not at all.
Everything is fine."

Once she departed, Rhade said, "Andromeda, show me Harper and
Trance as Trance took the device away from him." He wanted to
see how she'd gotten it and what she'd said to him.

"My sensors were blinded at that time. I don't have a record of it."

A shame. "Thank you."


Once the 1,000 extra Nietzschean ships arrived and destroyed
The Renewed Valor, Rhade understood why Trance had brought
the Andromeda Ascendant back here. Those 1,000 ships hadn't
been here in the history, because if they had been they would
have wiped out the High Guard and brought about a very different
300 years hence. Unfortunately, the holographic Dylan was correct
about what that victory would lead to. There would be no
enlightened Nietzschean Empire emerging from this battle even if
the Nietzscheans won. They would merely turn on one another and
pillage and destroy anyone else nearby. Those 1,000 ships needed
to be destroyed to bring about the future status quo Rhade had
wanted, and he even had someone who could design a weapon to
do it with.

Of course, he considered that this Dylan had been created by
Harper and might endorse Harper's plan for exactly that reason.
But the thinking behind the plan as presented by the hologram had
been sound. The holographic Dylan was harder and more practical
than the actual one had been. Almost Nietzschean, just like his
maker. How ironic that an engineer twisted and forged by decadent
Nietzscheans would be used as a weapon against them.

It was a kind of justice. A bitter kind.


"You find betraying our people, *all* our people, funny?" Tyr

As if this decision hadn't cut Rhade to the heart. They'd
slaughtered at least 10,000 Nietzscheans. Even Harper had
been appalled. Yet the truly appalling thing was that it had
been *necessary*.

Rhade had killed his best friend and betrayed the Commonwealth
to bring about a golden age managed by enlightened Nietzscheans.
Seeing what the Nietzscheans had become and done instead galled.
Dylan had died for nothing. Countless people across the galaxies
had suffered and died for *nothing*.

Rhade didn't have to justify himself to Tyr. He simply wanted Tyr
to know. It might be too much to expect him to understand. "Our
people," Rhade said derisively. "Our people were meant to be
living gods, warrior-poets who roamed the stars bringing
civilization, *not* cowards and bullies who prey on the weak
and kill each other for sport. I never imagined they'd prove
themselves so... inferior.

"I didn't betray our people. They betrayed themselves. You know
this better than anyone."

A *Kodiak*, the last survivor of a Pride betrayed and murdered by
the Dragans, had to ask him why he'd done this?

Tyr looked like he understood a little now. Maybe. He left without
another word. Rhade would have to kill him someday but not yet.

Trance entered. "You wanted to see me?" Some people would look
at her attitude and hear her light voice and think her cute.

"Did I do what you wanted me to?"

She widened her dark eyes. "I'm sorry. I have no idea what you're
talking about."

"Don't you?"

"If you're playing a joke, it's not very funny." Her attitude and
voice bespoke a surprise and sadness that he would pick on an
innocent bit of fluff such as herself.

He felt tired. Of everything. Someday he would force her to
stop playing these games, but today would not be that day. A
Nietzschean constantly assessed himself, and he knew that he
was not at his best right now.

"If you ever feel the need to confide anything, consider me,"
Rhade said.

For a second her face took on a shrewder look, then she smiled
brightly and said, "That's a very nice offer for you to make. 'Bye!"

He would have to be more wary of her secret plans as well as
Tyr's. And apparently Harper's at times. Perhaps his holographic
Dylan's as well. Considering, he might as well wonder more often
what Beka might be up to. He was a Nietzschean, so he was
accustomed to such.

Tomorrow he would probably find the challenge invigorating.

***********************THE END**********************

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