Return of the Archangel by Wadjet


Return of the Archangel

Andromeda Fanfiction



Rommie paced around the machine shop, arms folded across her chest, stopping every so often to look anxiously at the bed where Gabriel lay.

‘Is he going to be all right?’

Harper looked incredulously at her. ‘Are you kidding? This is me. He’ll be trippin’ the light fantastic in no time.’

‘But he took quite a hit. I was sure I’d killed him.’

‘Rommie. He’s an android. You can’t kill him. Now, go away. Do a sensor sweep or something. How am I expected to work miracles with you pacing around the shop like an expectant father? I’ll give you a call when he’s fixed. Okay?’

Rommie reluctantly made her way to Command, where Dylan, Beka and Tyr were working. They were heading towards a small drift called Triana in hopes of rallying more to their cause of rebuilding the long dead Systems Commonwealth.

Dylan looked at Rommie, concerned. He still couldn’t and wouldn’t trust Gabriel, but gave Harper the order to repair the android. How could he not after Rommie had broken her heart, sobbing in her captain’s arms? Dylan cared for her. He couldn’t doubt it anymore. He was her captain. He was her heart, as he’d told her. The little detail he had omitted was that Rommie was his heart too. She was so much more than just the ship’s avatar to him. As she’d said, she was a person. A sentient being with a right to live a life of her own. Dylan berated himself for almost forgetting that fact, and for assuming she would always be there.

Rommie had been about to leave with Gabriel then, and Dylan had resigned himself to it. He was glad for her if she was happy, which she certainly had appeared to be. Dylan suspected that Rommie was making a huge mistake, but as she had reminded him, it was her mistake to make. Then she had shocked him to the core by killing the man she loved. For the Commonwealth.

‘How is he?’

Rommie sighed, ‘Oh, I don’t know. Harper thinks he can repair him and I know he’s a genius, but still…’

Beka turned from the pilot’s chair. ‘C’mon Rommie. Harper may be a royal pain in the ass, but he’s the best mechanic I’ve ever seen. If anyone can get your boy back on his feet, he can. Don’t worry so much.’

Back in the machine shop, Harper had indeed worked his usual miracles. He’d repaired Gabriel’s physical damage and carefully purged the data the Balance had downloaded, leaving Gabriel free of his influence. The mechanic paused for a moment before waking him. He had to be sure the Balance was gone, otherwise Rommie’s pain had been for nothing and sure enough the whole sorry mess would start all over again.

He was also loath to wake the android because of what Gabriel meant to Andromeda. Harper was jealous and it was a cold, nasty feeling. He knew well enough that Dylan cared for her too, but that was okay. They were all together. A family. However, this one; this one had stolen their Rommie’s heart. Practically stolen her altogether. He’d betrayed her, infected her, almost destroyed them all. Who was to say he wouldn’t try to do it again? Gabriel blamed it on the Balance of Judgement, but then again he would, wouldn’t he? If Harper woke him up there was every chance that Rommie really would leave with him this time.

He sighed and pressed the switch, angling the instrument over Gabriel’s temple and across his forehead, the red light tracing a path across his brow.

Gabriel opened his eyes, blinking at the bright light of the machine shop.

‘What’s going on?’

‘This is your early morning wake-up call.’

Gabriel fixed him with a confused stare. ‘I…I don’t understand.’

‘Look. I was all for salvaging your bits and pieces and shoving what we didn’t need out of the nearest airlock, but…hey, who am I to question which bozo Rommie falls in love with? Looks like you’re the lucky guy, though I don’t see what she sees in you myself, and because we care about her, I fixed ya. You got a problem with that?’

Gabriel sat up and draped his legs over the side of the bed, still slightly disoriented.

‘Ah, no. No, of course not. Where is she?’

‘She’ll be here. I just wanted you and I to have a little talk. Mano i mano, before she sees you. Now I’m gonna be as clear about this as I can. If you ever, EVER, do one thing to hurt Rommie again, I swear I’ll dismantle you in the slowest, most painful way I can think of. And I’ve got a very good imagination. Capisce?’

Gabriel sighed and let his chin drop to his chest.

‘I understand,’ he replied softly. He paused for a moment, brow furrowed in concentration, while he performed an internal diagnostic. ‘He’s… is he gone?’

Harper nodded. ‘Yup. The Balance of Judgement is officially outa here.’ He waved his arm to emphasise the point.

‘Thank you,’ the android replied, quietly.

‘Humph. I didn’t do it for you,’ Harper retorted.

‘No. You did it for me. Didn’t you?’

Harper and Gabriel’s heads snapped around to see Andromeda walk into the shop. Neither of them thought they had ever seen a more beautiful sight.

‘Well, there he is. Do what you want with him…well…I mean…’


It was the same tone Rommie had used when she and Gabriel had first met. The tone that said ‘Butt out, we want to be alone’.

‘All right, all right, I’m going. But be gentle with him. He might break. Here’s hoping.’ Harper snorted.

Andromeda smiled and put her arms around him. ‘Thank you,’ she whispered. Harper felt his cheeks burn as she kissed him lightly.

‘Yeah, well, sure, anytime. I…er..I’ll just go and attend to my tools.’

Gabriel smiled. One of the few times she’d ever seen it. His eyes crinkled up at the edges, the pale blue bright with tears.


Rommie walked over to the bed and put her arms around his neck, pulling him to her. Her tears flowed freely, causing a dark patch on the shoulder of his sweater. Gabriel snaked his long arms around her too and held her close, rubbing his cheek into her hair as she sobbed.

‘Andromeda, it’s all right,’ he whispered.

‘Gabriel, I…’

‘Shh. Don’t. Don’t do this to yourself. I understand. You did what you had to do.’ He loosed his embrace and pulled back, cradling her face in his hands and gently brushing away her tears with his thumbs.

‘You gave me my freedom and I can’t tell you how much that means to me. You knew I wouldn’t be able to stand turning into…him. You did it just as much for me as for the Commonwealth. It’s all right.’ Gabriel smoothed her hair and spoke softly. ‘I love you. That hasn’t changed. I’d still like you to come away with me, but…I think we both know your place is here.’

Rommie nodded sadly. ‘Dylan needs me.’

‘Hmm. Dylan cares about you. You still have a family here, even though your original crew is gone. Harper doesn’t just have a proprietary interest. He loves you. He’d never admit it, especially not to you, but he does. I think they all do in their way. Well, perhaps not Tyr.’

Rommie chuckled. ‘Hmm, Nietzcheans don’t really do love.’

Gabriel smiled again. ‘No. I suppose they don’t.’

‘What did he say? "Love is merely a trick the DNA plays to replicate itself." I called him a cynic,’ she laughed.

‘And that he is.’ Gabriel replied, ‘He’ll never know what we have and that’s a tragedy.’

Rommie traced her finger over the arch of his eyebrow and down his cheek. Gabriel closed his eyes and leaned into her hand.

‘What are you going to do now?’

Gabriel kissed her palm, then took her face in his hands again. ‘This.’

His lips touched hers with infinite softness and a gentleness she had come to expect from this extraordinary android. She held him tighter and returned the kiss with all the passion she felt.

The Restorian destroyer picked up the life-pod just a few hundred kilometres off Zanis 3. The face to face message they had received from the Balance of Judgement just before it was destroyed had been brief, but succinct. "Rebuild me". As soon as the life-pod with its precious cargo of data was safely delivered to the Restorian agents on Zanis the work could begin.

The Andromeda Ascendant had destroyed the Restorians’ flagship and main shipyard, but there were still plenty of supporters of the cause to continue the work in the Balance’s absence. They went about their work with the focus and enthusiasm only fanatics can muster.

Weeks passed and Gabriel had settled in as a member of the Andromeda’s crew. They continued their mission, visiting unaligned worlds and increasing their tally of signatures on the charter. Gabriel had distinguished himself as somewhat of a diplomat, his skill turning the tide in more than one set of negotiations. He was pleased to be of help and Dylan was glad to have him aboard.

The Balance of Judgement’s original mission as one of the High Guard was to protect the Commonwealth. As the Commonwealth was lost and the centuries passed however, that goal had been twisted and re-invented as the Judgement became more and more un balanced, until he became a killing machine bent on war, death and destruction. Cleansing the stars of any he deemed unworthy or undesirable. Gabriel began to feel as if he was part of something positive again, instead of going against his better nature on the orders of his ship. Thanks to Harper, he was actually his own person and also thanks to Harper, he had Andromeda.

Their relationship continued to be a source of joy and wonder to him. It was a wonderful feeling for him to be close to someone who understood, one of his own kind. It was amazing to not feel alone anymore. The passion he felt for her whenever they were intimate was almost overwhelming, whether it was just kissing and touching each other or completely at one deep within Andromeda’s CPU. She was truly remarkable.

Gabriel had no idea how long it would last, but he had a suspicion that one day he would leave the crew of the Andromeda Ascendant, leaving his lover behind. Even though he knew their cause was a just one, part of him still yearned to share his knowledge with others. He had been the Balance’s tactical, strategic and intelligence unit, but he really did have ancient literature stored inside his database and he did love to read. That much had not been lies and subterfuge.

Fighting on the side of right was still fighting, and what he had told Andromeda still held true. After three hundred years, he was sick of it.

Although as androids neither he nor Andromeda had the need for sleep, they enjoyed the tactile sensation of lying wrapped together in bed, both switched into the sleep mode Harper had programmed into them. Invariably, Gabriel awoke first. He planned it that way so that he could watch Andromeda in repose for a little while, before they began their day. This morning however, he was roused even earlier. He sat up in bed, startled and alarmed. Leaving Andromeda still sleeping, he rose, dressed and rushed to Command to find the captain.

‘Captain Hunt.’

Dylan turned to greet him. ‘Morning, Gabriel.’ His expression changed to one of concern as he saw the look on the agitated android’s face. ‘What’s wrong? Is Rommie okay?’

‘Yes, yes. She’s fine. It’s the Balance of Judgement.’

Dylan looked puzzled. ‘I thought Harper managed to purge his personality.’

Gabriel nodded, ‘He did. I can’t explain it but I know the Balance is active again. He’s rebuilt himself. There must be a flag in my system somewhere. Harper wouldn’t have been looking for it. The Judgement obviously downloaded his personality into something else before he was destroyed. He’s out there, Captain. Trust me, I know. He’s calling me. We have to find him. We have to find him and destroy him for good and I think only I can do that.’

Dylan nodded ‘Do you have a fix on where he is?’

‘Yes. Zanis 3, in the Lokab system.’

Dylan took the command chair, ‘Beka, set a course for Zanis 3. Looks like we’re not done with the Restors yet.’

Dylan called a command meeting on the bridge of the Andromeda. After he explained the situation, each crew member was given the opportunity to voice their opinions on how best to proceed.

‘Well,’ began Rommie, ‘we can be sure that they’ll rebuild the Balance as a Siege Perilous class warship, just as he was before. This time though, he’ll be coming out with destroyer support. I think we can safely say that a full on assault wouldn’t work. He’s too heavily armed for that.’

‘Do you think we could get any help from other charter members?’ Dylan asked.

Beka Valentine shook her head. ‘The only people with enough military hardware to be of any use at all are the Free Trade Alliance, but they’re too tied up with keeping raiders at bay to spare anything. My brother tells me that things have really taken a turn for the worse since we destroyed the Judgement. He may have killed indiscriminately, but by doing that he managed to scare the bad guys too.’

Dylan sighed, ‘So. Any suggestions?’

‘I think I know what to do, but I’ll need Harper’s help, and you’ll have to trust me,’ said Gabriel.

Harper chortled, ‘Trust you? After that little stunt you pulled last time? I think not.’

Dylan waved for him to be quiet, ‘No, let’s hear him out. When Gabriel first came here he was on a mission from the Balance. The Balance is gone, right Harper?’

‘Yeah, but…’

‘Well, then. Gabriel, at this point I’m willing to consider just about anything. The Andromeda isn’t powerful enough to take him, we can’t get any extra firepower from elsewhere to help us. What’s your plan?’

Gabriel wrapped his arms around himself and frowned, ‘I think I can get to him. If Harper and I can design a powerful enough virus, and I can get back aboard the Balance, I can destroy him from the inside.’

Dylan sat back and considered, ‘You’d be willing to put yourself at risk like that? If the Balance found out what you were doing, he’d destroy you in such a way that we could never repair you again. Even given Harper’s talents.’ Dylan shot a look at the mechanic and was greeted by a smug smile.

Gabriel sighed, ‘Captain, the Balance of Judgement cannot be allowed to continue doing what he’s been doing. Don’t forget I’ve been a spectator and a participant in this madness for almost three hundred years. Thousands, tens of thousands of innocent lives lost because of his misguided fanaticism. I’m ashamed of my part in it and this has to stop. Now. I’m the only one who could get close enough to him for this to work. As far as he knows I still contain his core personality, I’m still loyal and will do whatever he tells me to do. I should be able to access his systems and infect them. I did it with Andromeda.’

‘Hmm. I guess you did. If we destroy the Balance for good, do you think that would cripple the Restors enough for them to no longer be a threat?’

Gabriel nodded, ‘Yes.’

‘Then do it.’

Gabriel and Harper left Command and started off down to the machine shop. Andromeda followed Gabriel and stopped him in the corridor.

‘Gabriel. Are you sure you know what you’re doing?’

The android took her hands and looked into her eyes. ‘Andromeda, at last I can do something to make up for all the violence I’ve been a party to. It won’t bring back any of the people the Balance has murdered in the past, but if I can stop him from killing one more innocent being, it has to count for something.’

‘But you could die. I don’t want to lose you again.’ Andromeda’s eyes began to fill with tears.

‘Yes, that’s true, but I’ll make sure I do everything I can to stop that from happening. Risk is part of life, at least this time it’s my choice to take it. I was the intelligence arm of the Balance, don’t forget. The spy. I really do have all those military memoirs stored in my database. Lies and subterfuge are my specialty and I am so sorry you were on the receiving end of it.’

Rommie held him close as Gabriel whispered, ‘Trust me, Andromeda. I love you and I’ll come back. You won’t lose me, I promise.’

She smiled and returned to Command. Gabriel watched her go, knowing that he’d lied to her again. Even if this audacious plan of his worked, he would be leaving shortly afterward, but Andromeda didn’t need to know that just yet.

From the Andromeda Ascendant’s hiding place behind one of Zanis 3’s six large moons, Rommie launched Gabriel’s life-pod with a heavy heart. At least it would have been if she’d had one. As she watched him go, a strange feeling overwhelmed her. All these new emotions, love, passion, pain, joy, worry - all tied up with the man in that pod. She really didn’t want to lose him again, she already knew what that felt like. Yet she knew he was right. On all counts. The Balance had to be stopped. He was the only one who could do it. He had to do it alone and he had chosen, with a freewill he had only just received, to risk his life to further their goal of rebuilding the Systems Commonwealth.

‘Archangel to Judgement, come in Judgement.’

‘Gabriel. What kept you?’

Gabriel smiled, ‘I had a little problem getting away from the Andromeda.’

‘Is she gone?’

‘She’ll be no more trouble.’

‘Good. Come up to Command as soon as you get here.’

The life-pod came to rest in the Judgement’s cargo bay and Gabriel set out for Command, preparing to face his nemesis. To destroy him. He couldn’t help but have mixed feelings about it. After all, they had been one and the same person once - a long, long time ago, before the madness, before the killing of innocents began. Thankfully, their personalities had diverged until Gabriel had almost been his own man. Almost. Until Andromeda had effectively ended his life, Gabriel had still been unable to resist any orders the Balance of Judgement had given him. No matter how heinous they might have been, no matter how much personal pain they caused Gabriel in their execution. Gabriel had all of those things in mind as he purposefully continued on through the bright maze of corridors to carry out his mission.

The Judgement appeared on the large screen in front of him. Hands on hips, jaw set. His usual arrogant self.

‘Welcome back. Time to continue the work. As you can see, our agents have done a sterling job. Gabriel, I know you’ve had problems in the past with the way I protect the Commonwealth, but you do understand that this is for the best. Don’t you?’

‘I suppose so. Yes. You’re right. I didn’t really understand your reasoning, but I’m beginning to,’ Gabriel replied.

The Balance smiled, ‘Good. I’ll need you more than ever in the time to come. We will rebuild the Commonwealth. The Restorians will restore the natural order of the universe and you will have played a major role in that. Now that we’ve disposed of the Andromeda Ascendant, there’s no-one to stand in our way. We can get back out on patrol within twenty four hours.’

‘No, we won’t,’ thought Gabriel, ‘you won’t be going out there to maim and kill again. Ever.’

The virus he and Harper had designed was extremely complex, but as long as Gabriel loaded it into the right part of the Balance’s system, the virus could begin its work and the Balance would hopefully not be aware of it until it was too late.

He decided that the navigational system would be the perfect place to download. Since the Balance was still in dock, navigation was a dormant system. From there the virus would be able to cascade through the Balance, shutting him down and ending his life section by section, until the final crescendo as the ship’s self-destruct blew him into a million pieces scattered across the stars.

He had to be sure that the Balance was unaware of what he was doing and that there were no workers around, so he went down to the ship’s library. It had always been his favourite place. Somewhere to escape the madness. He would lose himself in the books, enjoying the physical sensation of turning the pages and, as he’d told Andromeda, absorbing the words one by one the way they were written. Sadly, all the books were gone. Everything he had collected over three hundred years destroyed when the original ship exploded. The data was still stored inside him, he could use it at any time, but it wasn’t the same.

He removed the small access panel to reveal a similar set of data transfer cables as on the Andromeda Ascendant. They may have been different classes, but both the Balance and the Andromeda were Commonwealth ships and certain things were standard. He found the cable he knew was connected to the ship’s navigational systems and peeling back the skin flap on his forearm, extracted the small device containing the virus and attached it to the Balance’s data network. Using a similar communicator to the one he used on the Andromeda, Gabriel linked in.

‘Gabriel to Andromeda. Andromeda, can you hear me?’

‘I’m here, Gabriel. What’s your status?’

‘I’ve downloaded the virus and as far as I can tell it’s replicating itself through the ship’s systems. It’s set to activate in the next ten minutes. Pretty soon after that the self-destruct programme will be initiated.’

‘How will you get out?’

‘Don’t worry, Andromeda. I’ve got that covered. Gabriel out.’

He closed the panel again and swiftly made his way through the ship to the bays carrying the attack drones. If he removed everything but the guidance systems, there was just enough room for him to lay down inside. It took longer than he expected and his internal chronometer told him there wasn’t much time left before all hell broke loose. He squeezed himself into the small tube and downloaded a course to meet up with the Andromeda.

‘Gabriel. What are you doing?’ the cold, sinister voice of the Judgement made itself heard inside his head.

‘Getting out of here.’

‘You can’t go anywhere. I control the ship. I want to know what’s going on and I want to know now.

‘Well, by now I’d say that your anti-virus software has been disabled. That will be followed in the next few seconds by your weapons systems, including the ability to launch these attack drones.’

Gabriel accessed the launch programme and the massive bay doors began to inch open. He could sense the Judgement’s panic as he tried to wrest control of his ship from the cascade virus wreaking havoc through him.

‘Gabriel! Why are you doing this?’

There was a desperate tone to the Judgement’s voice that almost made Gabriel feel pity for him. Almost.

‘Because of the pain. The war, the death, the suffering you’ve caused over the centuries. The Commonwealth will be re-built, but by the Captain and crew of the Andromeda Ascendant. She’s stronger than ever and if this is the last thing I ever do, then so be it. I had to stop you, for the sake of spacers everywhere and for myself. I despise you for the atrocities you’ve committed and that you’ve made me commit. I’m my own person now and there’s nothing you can do about it. The madness must end now. I can’t do it anymore…and neither can you.’

The disembodied voice of the computer…his own voice…announced the fate of the Balance of Judgement. ‘Self-destruct initiated…time to self-destruct 30 seconds…’


The attack drone slid smoothly through the bay doors and accelerated out into the stars. Safely tucked behind the moon, the Andromeda would be shielded from the massive blast as the Judgement exploded from the inside out.

The blast wave from the explosion sent the small attack drone reeling out of control, Gabriel cramped inside, hoping against all hope that he would reach Andromeda without requiring anymore of Harper’s expertise.

Rommie picked up the attack drone’s signature on her sensors, but realised it must be Gabriel when she couldn’t detect any weapons on board. Unfortunately her elation at knowing that Gabriel had escaped the fireball was quickly tempered by the fact that the attack drone was out of control and careering towards the moon.

‘Dylan. Gabriel is out of control. He’s going to crash if we don’t do something.’

Dylan checked the screen and realised to his horror that she was right. ‘Beka, take the Maru and go get that drone.’

The Maru slipped out from the Andromeda’s cargo bay and Beka pushed the engines to their limit to reach the small drone. If she didn’t get there soon, the moon’s gravity would pull Gabriel to his almost certain death as the craft burned up in the moon’s atmosphere.

‘Gabriel, are you there?’

‘Yes, but I don’t know what’s happening. The blast wave knocked out my navigation systems and that’s all I had. I had to take everything else out to get in here.’

‘Do you have any thruster control?’

‘Negative. These are automatic drones, the Judgement would have been in control of them. I laid in a course for the Andromeda, but now we’ve been sent off that, there’s no way I can get back in charge of this thing. I need help, Beka. I don’t want to die again.’

‘Oh great. Well, I am one helluva pilot. Trust me Gabriel, we’ll get you home to Rommie safe and sound.’

Beka manoeuvred the clumsy ship around and under the drone, then opened her pod doors and expertly matched the speed and erratic course of the tiny craft.

‘Gabriel, can you shut down? I need it to stop or at least slow down before I can get you inside.’

‘I’ll try.’ Gabriel shifted as much as he could, looking for anything he could use to shut down the engines. He accessed the system and managed to shut down the power. It was all he could do. Since these drones were designed as kamikaze fighters, reverse gear was not an option.

The engines ceased and the drone drifted in space, carried by inertia. The irony wasn’t lost on Gabriel. The same law of physics which had preceded his demise the first time the Balance was destroyed, was the very same that offered his salvation now.

Some minutes later Gabriel breathed a sigh of relief as the Maru gently touched down, and he realised he was back safely within the Andromeda. He and Beka walked up to Command to be greeted by Dylan and Harper.

‘Maybe I’m not sorry I fixed you after all,’ Harper grinned.

Captain Hunt grasped Gabriel’s hand and shook it warmly.

‘You did well out there, Gabriel. I’m proud to have you on board.’

The android smiled. He was part of a family for the first time in his life, and probably the last. It was definitely time to go. Any warrior left inside him had been excised by what he had just done, and continuing to fight would only serve as a painful reminder of what he had once been.

‘Thank you, Captain. With your permission, I’d like to have some time alone with Andromeda.’

Dylan nodded, smiling. ‘Of course.’

Their quarters were welcoming, as Andromeda had taken the time and trouble to set out lighted candles, giving the room a cosy glow. He would miss it. He would miss her, more than she’d ever know, but she had to stay just as much as he had to leave. It was a sad situation, but at least they would both have the memories and be able to access those memories as if they were the actual experience. Perhaps there were a few advantages to being a synthetic life-form.

Gabriel took her in his arms and held her close, tears of joy and relief at his safe return cascading down her face. He drew back to capture her mouth with his, then picked her up and laid her softly on the bed. Caressing and kissing her all the while, he undressed his lover and made love to her tenderly, trying to convey all of his feelings in the act. Feelings that despite his linguistic skills, he wasn’t sure he would be able to articulate in words.

When it was over they lay in silence for quite some time. Eventually Andromeda spoke.

‘You’re leaving, aren’t you?’

‘Yes. As soon as we reach Riker Drift.’


‘Because I’ve had enough. I can’t fight anymore, Andromeda. It’s just not in me. I want to teach, share some of the knowledge I have. At least now I can do what I want to do, I don’t have an insane ship in control of me. I wish you’d come with me, I don’t want to lose you, but I guess you can’t leave Dylan. Can you?’

Andromeda sighed, sadly. ‘No. I have to stay and complete my mission. I know I’m not just a part of the ship and if for no other reason, I love you for making me see that. I just believe in what Dylan is doing and want to be a part of it. I wish you did too, but I know you have to follow your heart.’

She lifted herself up to look into his smiling face. ‘ Yes, you do have a heart. I know that now,’ she smiled back, recalling an earlier conversation.

‘And it belongs to you,’ he replied.

The few days it took them to reach Riker Drift both flew by and dragged interminably. Andromeda was dreading saying goodbye to him again, but at least this time she knew it would be less traumatic. There would also be the option to visit him whenever they were back in this part of the quadrant. That was always assuming he didn’t fall in love again.

The entire crew assembled in the small room to wish Gabriel bon voyage. Individual goodbyes all said, the rest of the crew quietly made their way back to work and discreetly left the lovers to say their own private farewell.

Andromeda wrapped her arms loosely around his waist and looked into his eyes as Gabriel stroked her hair.

‘I’m going to miss you so much,’ she whispered, sniffing back her tears. ’Damn. I never cried before I met you, now it feels like I’m in tears half the time.’

Gabriel smiled, ‘And I’ll miss you, but you know why I’m going and you know why I have to. You more than anyone. I can make myself a life now. I’m my own man and I know what it’s like to love someone and be loved in return. I know what it’s like to be part of a family and that’s all down to you. Thank you.’

They kissed long and deeply, neither wanting to be the one to break the contact. Finally, Andromeda broke away.

‘If you’re going, you have to go now. Otherwise I’ll be inclined to disable the pod,’ she smiled.

Gabriel chuckled, ‘I suppose I’d better then, hadn’t I?’

As he entered the escape pod, Andromeda called to him, ‘Gabriel…I love you.’

He turned and smiled. ‘I love you too. Forever. You are remarkable, Andromeda.’