dreams_dont_die: (Crystal clear. As usual.)
Captain Dylan Hunt ([personal profile] dreams_dont_die) wrote2014-07-17 04:53 am

Blink and it's gone / A moment, a breath / A Dance of the Mayflies / Just enough... For a Lifetime.

Episode 2.15 - Dance of the Mayflies

TW for character death, violence, suicide themes.

Zombies. Actual, real-live, fall down dead and get back up again zombies. On his starship. Sometimes, Dylan really misses his own time. Back when he had a whole crew on this ship. Back when he had the High Guard at his back and the authority of the Commonwealth behind him.

Back when crazy stuff like this just didn't happen.

But no. Go be humanitarian and try to help some people out when their drift's been attacked and all of a sudden his ship's infested with a parasite that's already infected Beka, and its victims are lurching around the place trying to kill his crew.

And that's if their supposed allies the Than don't blow them out of the sky first. Their ship's crippled. Crippled and hiding. Behind an asteroid. From the Than. Dylan's always liked the Than.

Up until now.

"Great. Just great."

"That's what you get for incessantly trying to help," Tyr had said. But just once, he'd like to actually get some sort of reward for trying to do what was right. Not much. A little gratitude. A lack of walking corpses all over his ship.

Dylan stares up at the viewscreen and watches them plod their way through the corridors.

"Internal defences ineffectual," Andromeda's hologram reports.

"It isn't so easy to kill dead people, is it?" Tyr says from the weapons console, looking about as unsettled as Dylan feels.

No. Apparently it isn't.

And something's going on in medbay. He hasn't heard back from Trance since she'd disappeared from the comms in the middle of telling him it looked like she had something.

He's gotta get down there.

"Tyr, you have command."

Time to take this into his own hands.

He kicks the first zombie straight in the chest, sending it flying with a satisfying shout into the still air of the corridor. But it's got friends. Dylan's staring down the corridor at the three approaching zombies when the one he'd just downed stirs, where he can see it in his peripheral vision.

And gets up again.

"This is creepy."

He raises his lance, pointing it straight out to the side, and shoots without taking is eyes off the three zombies moving ever closer.

One of them gets an elbow to the head, another a shot to the gut, and the third a very satisfying kick that smacks into its forehead and takes it down.

"Very creepy."

They're already getting up behind him as he leaves the corridor.

This day just keeps getting better.

And around the next corner, it gets worse again.

This time, they come at him from the shadows, two of them, and even as he's lifting his arm to shoot the first, the second grabs him, twisting his arm so that he lets out a shout of sudden pain, the lance clattering to the floor. He tries to turn, but there are arms around him, arms like a metal cage pressed around his shoulders, pulling him into a clammy, dead embrace.

Dylan jerks, trying to twist enough to bash the thing, but it's stronger than he is, and unrelenting. He struggles, swaying, but he can't break free.

"Rommie! Why are the dead trying to kill us?"

Except when the second one comes for him, hands reaching for his jaw, it's not to snap his neck, it's to ...

To kiss him?

That is just too much, but with two of them now, he can get leverage. He jerks his head forward, making contact hard enough to get the first zombie to reel, and leans back against the second for momentum, kicking, throwing, breaking the grip to finally get his captor onto the floor so he can snatch up the lance and shoot them, once, twice.

"Sorry, guys, you're not my type."

He's got to get to medbay.

Except he's barely made it a few more steps when the whole damn ship shakes around him.

"TYR! What the hell was that?"

It's the asteroid.

Of course it's the asteroid.

The Than just blew up the damn asteroid they were hiding behind. There goes their cover. There go the few operational systems they had left on the damn ship.

"That's not good."

There is nothing good about this. Including the next lot of zombies. There's just so many of them. Every single one of the victims they evacuated off that crippled ship is up and about again, and the next time they catch him, there are three of them. Two to hold him, and one, again, to reach up for his face and hold him, helpless, as she leans in closer.

Until the sound of a force lance comes from behind them, one shot, two shots, enough to throw them off and let him slip their grip again.

It's Rommie.

That girl always has the best of timing.

He stares at the newly fallen corpses, even now struggling to get up again, the feel of cold fingers still clammy on his jaw.

Why kissing?

Unless ...

"Spores! Rommie, shipwide!" The obedient buzz of shipwide sounds. "This is Hunt! The parasites spread by exhaling spores into their victims mouths. Do not, I repeat, do not allow them to get close to your face."

He and Rommie run all the way to medbay, and they get there not an instant too soon. Trance is pinned to the floor, Beka struggling weakly against an assailant.


When the zombie pinning Trance to the floor looks up, he kicks it in the head and it goes flying. Trance is lying, still, staring, and he grabs her arm, hauling her into a sitting position.

"Trance!" Not another one. They've already gotten Beka. Not Trance, too. Nobody else on his crew. This parasite is not going to get them like it did the poor people on that drift.

Not his crew.

Her body lolls strangely in his arms, her eyes vague, distant as she stares at him, letting out a little whimpering breath.

"You ..."

"It's going to be okay," he says, staring into her eyes. "Don't worry. Don't worry, you'll be okay." But it's hard to believe, seeing how vacant her stare is.

And then her hand's in his hair and her lips are on his, in a kiss sudden, deep ... and deadly. He realizes in an instant what's happened, but it's too late, he can't get away from her, can't break the contact until she's done and she throws him across the room.

She's infected.

And she's infected him.

"We have made you part of us."

The voice isn't Trance's.

Dylan swipes a hand across his mouth as though that could undo what she just did, could wipe away the infection that means he now only has hours to live.

But he can't, any more than he can reason with the alien consciousness now possessing his medic. Or than he can fight her. He tries, but she throws him, Heavy Grav weight and all, across the room like a doll.

It takes Rommie to be able to take her on. Rommie with her android strength and android reflexes can hold her back, even as the parasite gloats over Trance's body, studying her hands, her arms, her skin, reveling in what it's taken from his friend.

He gets to his feet, slowly, staring at the thing that's no longer Trance, and he draws his lance.

"No, Dylan," says Beka's voice from behind him, weak, pleading, "no, it's Trance."

"Not anymore, it isn't," he says, watching the thing as it, with supreme unconcern for the weapon pointed at it, stares at Trance's fingers.

"How will we get her back if you destroy her body?"

"We don't know what her body is or how the parasites can possess her body faster than ours." Everyone else had taken hours to be possessed. Beka's been symptomatic since before the zombies started rising, yet it's Trance who's been taken over.

Trance, who they've never understood.

Trance, who can be shot dead and get back up again.

"So if it's all the same to you."

But Rommie steps between them, circling, eying the thing -- it called itself Bokor -- in Trance's body, with the predatory prowl that gives her away as a warship. A fighter. A killer.

"What do you want from us?" Dylan shouts at the creature, lance still raised though Rommie has intervened.

"Your shells."

That has got to be one of the creepiest things he's heard on this increasingly creepy day. They want their bodies. They want to take them over and pretend it's to their benefit. For immortality.

No thanks.

Rommie attacks, and Dylan grabs Beka around the waist, hauling her up out of bed and letting her lean on him to stagger through the corridors, shooting zombies as they go.

The creature in Trance's body is strong, and he doesn't want to think about what it and Rommie might do to each other.

(Beka. Trance. Not Rommie, too. He's told himself over and over again he will not lose any more crew members. Is this the day he breaks that vow?)

He darts into a cargo hold, locking the door behind them and setting Beka down as gently as he can in his rush.

Not any more of them.


"Stay with me," he tells her.

He runs to a console. "All hands, report!"

Beka barely has enough strength to try for a joke from behind him, straightening up, reporting in as First Officer. He stares at her.

She looks awful. Pale, sweaty, her breath coming so heavily he can barely hear her words.

She's dying. And then the Bokor will take her too. And him.

Tyr reports in that the Than are returning and the ship ... she's still broken. No power, no engines.


No better news from Harper. Harper can't even get near the systems to fix them.

And behind Dylan, even as he listens to Harper's report, Beka's breathing gets faster, shallower, and she slides down the wall she's leaning on to the ground.

The zombies have his ship. And soon they'll have his crew.

"Maybe it's better that way."

Because now he knows why the Than attacked them. Attacked the drift they'd been helping.

The Andromeda Ascendant is one ship. One ship, with five souls aboard her. If the Bokor take over, if they get off this ship and onto another, they'll claim whole worlds.

When he tells her, Beka looks up at him, her eyes dark with the understanding of what it means.

"If we win, the Bokor get through. Everyone loses."

"Not on my watch."

He has to destroy his ship. And her crew.

Activating the self-destruct is one of the hardest things he's ever done. But as he watches Beka's eyes close as she passes out for what will be the last time if he doesn't find a cure, he knows it's the only thing he can do. Beka's got half an hour to live.

And now, so do the rest of them.

Thirty minutes to find the cure and save his crew and his ship.

"Don't worry, Beka," he tells the slumped form of his First Officer, running a hand along her face, feeling the clamminess of the fever there, "I'll take care of you. One way or the other."

He locks the door behind him as he leaves, lance blasting a path through the zombies.

And it's only then that he realizes what he's been missing.

"Dylan!" Harper's voice hisses in his comm implant. "Dylan!"


They've both realized it at the same time. Dylan, from finally piecing together what he's missed, and Harper from watching a zombie get electrocuted messing with the ship's systems.

Electrical power.

They reactivate the victims' nervous systems. Disrupt that with a big enough blast, and they should be knocked dead.

For good.

"I figure it'll take at least ten thousand volts a dead-head," Harper reports.


"A level eight discharge of a forcelance should do the trick."

Now that, he can work with. He twists the dial on the lance in his hand around to the right setting, listening to Harper's words.

And there's a zombie, just waiting to be his first test subject.

He spins, lunges, shoots, sending a blue-white lance of light straight into the zombie's chest.

It falls, sparking.


"Oh yeah," he tells Harper, lifting the lance in a little punch of victory. "Level eight works."

It'll drain their power sources pretty quickly, but fortunately, if there's one thing the Andromeda has in great supply, it's force lances. She's equipped to arm a crew of four thousand. A year and a half out, they've barely made a dent in her armouries.

Time to go take back his ship, with one lance in his holster, and as many spares shoved in his belt as he can fit.

Damn, it feels good to finally be able to fight back. He's had enough of these goddamned zombies on his ship. Between him and the androids, they make quick progress. The zombies seem to know what they're up to, and begin to converge on them, but now, they can't touch him. Now, he knows their game, and he keeps taking them out, one by one, tossing the spent lances as he goes.

"Now we're talking."

It only stops being satisfying when he finds Trance.

She's given Rommie a hell of a beating. She's collapsed on the floor, propped against the wall, sparks and circuitry showing in an ugly patch on her stomach. His poor ship. Now she's taking a beating in all her forms.

Rommie's dark eyes look sardonically up at him.

"Trance is a lot stronger than she looks."

He reaches down a hand to her, and pulls her up. She makes to go for Trance again, but Dylan keeps hold of her hand.

"Rommie, wait," he says. He's not going to send her up against Trance again.

Not when he knows what he has to do. Because now he thinks he knows what's going on with Trance.

"It's over," he tells the Bokor. And this time, he's standing proud. On the ship he's retaken. His ship. Not theirs. Not ever. "Surrender now, and I might be persuaded to find a nice rock to dump the rest of you on. After you remove your parasites from my crew, of course."

"Leave?" it sneers. "Why? We've already won."

He laughs.

"Won? How do you define losing?"

That's when Andromeda announces the self-destruct's been switched off.

They've got control of her systems.

And Dylan's head is beginning to twinge.

The first symptom of the infection.

"That's very impressive."

It's hard to remember to look at her and not see Trance. But the self-satisfied smirk on her face when she thinks she's won makes it easier. And it makes it easier to do what he has to do.

"Your ship is impressive, though not difficult to manage. We will find it most useful."

"Yeah," he says, walking slowly towards her along the rising slope of the ramp she's standing at the top of. "Me too. That's why you can't have it."

Nobody is taking the Andromeda from him. She's everything he has left in this world. She's home and friends and the last link to his past and the first to his future. She's the only tool he has to forge a whole new civilization from the ruins.

She's his. And no self-satisfied parasite looking at him through the eyes of his friend is ever going to take her from him. She's gloating. She still thinks she's won, even though her little minions are dead, finally, all over his ship.

"A minor setback. Soon even you will be of us, and then we shall re-establish our rightful dominion here, in our new home."

And sure enough, his head gives another little twinge at that, to remind him that he's got hours left to live if this doesn't work.

But she doesn't know what he knows. Or the lengths he'll go to for the sake of a friend.

Even if this doesn't work, Trance deserves better than to be this Bokor's shell.

"It occurs to me that you can't take control of people until they're dead." He pauses, wondering if the creature has it in whatever arrogant hive-mind it's a part of to realize that things are about to go terribly wrong for it, "but you took Trance over in just a few seconds."


"So ... it occurs to me that maybe Trance was never alive in the first place."

And in that moment, the creature knows. It dodges the strike from the first lance, but the second, he extends, and jabs into her stomach as he gives her the full level eight discharge.

Trance's body falls, staring but unseeing.

He takes a deep breath and looks at the lance in his hand. The lance he'd just used to kill a friend.

He really, really hopes this works. Because Trance is the only hope any of them have.

But he's seen her die before. The very day they met, he'd grieved for her, so young, so innocent-seeming, gunned down just for standing up for her principles. Until she'd woken up. And since then, he's learned not to take too lightly anything that Trance seems capable of. She's saved him from death, both as his medic and as his friend and he can only hope what he's just done is right.

He calls to Andromeda to send a medical android, and he walks beside the stretcher it carries back to the medbay. The battle with the Than has rekindled in Command, and Tyr's busy with that, but there's only one solution to this, and it's not defeating the Than.

It's curing Beka, and Dylan too.

The minutes he spends sitting by Trance's side in the medbay are some of the longest he's ever known. If you discount the ones trapped in the black hole. But even they didn't seem this long. They passed in apparent seconds, but he can't judge how long he sits by Trance's still form, hands clasped in front of him, waiting.

Until she opens her eyes again.

"Trance?" She looks up at him, and this time, her eyes aren't hard, cold. This time, she stirs, mumbling questions about what's happened, but he interrupts her.

He's smiling, even though he's watching somebody he just killed come back to life, because it's so good to see her back. But so very strange that he can't let it pass.

"You know, it's. You freak me out, you know that? You really freak me out." And she has for a long time. This new, back from a terrible future version of Trance more so than the last one. This Trance, with her portents of doom to come, would have been unsettling enough without anything else.

But it is good to see her.

"But I'm not surprised that you're still alive."

She tries to say something, but he leans forward, over her, his eyes fixed on hers though the pain in his head is intensifying.

"No, no, you can explain later. Right now, we need that cure, okay?" She'd said she had one. One for Beka, whose time is surely running out by now. Would the self-destruct he'd set for the length of her life have gone by now if it hadn't been disabled?

He's lost track. But she is looking very still over there on her bed.

"Now, we know that ten thousand volts will kill the parasites inside a human host."

Trance straightens.

"That's it. That is the missing piece. I can create an injection with nanobots that will deliver the exact charge needed."

And that is exactly what he wanted to hear.

"Then do it. Beka needs your help now. Then come find me. Go!"

He's already running for the door, because there are still more Bokor left to find, but now, he knows how this is going to end.

Now, he knows, they'll be saved.

And saved, they are. It takes remarkably little time for Beka to recover well enough to kick the last few Bokor butts out of the slipstream core, and just like he'd asked, Trance comes and finds him.

He hadn't asked her to sneak up behind him and jab him without warning, but at least he's not infected anymore.

He also hadn't asked her to completely avoid the question he asked when he tried to sort out just what happened, but ...

In a way, that's kind of comforting, because that's the old Trance. Just as confusing as ever.