"To Loose the Fateful Lightning"
Week of October 15, 2000
by Michelle Erica Green

And the Children Shall Lead

"To Loose the Fateful Lightning" Plot Summary:

Hunt tells his crew that the ship is approaching a former High Guard Station where he hopes to find remnants of the Commonwealth, or at least supplies. Though they receive no response to hails, Andromeda gets life readings from the station. Shooting begins when they board, but as soon as Hunt says that he's a captain from the High Guard, a huge population of children appears and begins to cheer. Their leader, Nassan, who is barely 20 years old yet dying prematurely of radiation poisoning, celebrates Hunt as their messiah, foretold in the "mishbrief" -- the oral recitation of the final orders left by the last Commonwealth officer on the station. These children are the descendants of many generations to survive attacks by Magog, Nietzcheans, and slavers, despite the fact that they don't live beyond their teens.

Hunt realizes quickly that the youths are misinformed and prejudiced -- they can't read the documents left behind by the Commonwealth, and they don't trust Trance just because they've never heard of a purple person. Anasazi suggests trading training for equipment, but Valentine realizes neither he nor Rev Bem can go near the children -- they kill Nietzcheans and Magog on sight. While Harper finds logic chips for Andromeda and booze for himself, Hunt attempts to find the source of the radiation by entering a password-encrypted area, where he discovers two dozen slipfighters armed with nova bombs. The bombs are the source of the radiation killing the children, but now that they have access to the weaponry, the "holy warriors" want only to make peace by destroying their enemies.

Hunt tries to live up to Nassan's image of him as a messiah, blessing two young men who want to fight for peace. But the boys then take fighters to destroy enemy solar systems, believing they have Hunt's sanction. Though Andromeda manages to harpoon one of the slipfighters, another flies his ship into the sun of a system inhabited by Magog, causing a supernova that kills everyone on its planets. Valentine expresses horror to Harper over the genocide, but he recalls how the Magog murdered his cousins and isn't so sure the kids' idea of "peace" through killing is wrong.

Hunt introduces Bem to Nassan, proving to her that there are Magog capable of understanding humans and vice versa. He says he wants to save the children from themselves, though Nassan points out that they don't rape or eat themselves -- the Magog do that to them. Still, she addresses the others, telling them of Hunt's vision of peace among different species. Hayek, who flew the fighter harpooned by Andromeda before it could destroy a solar system, refuses to listen and strings Bem up for the others to torture. "If you're really our messiah, you'll beat this Magog to death yourself," he dares Hunt, who insists that his crewman be cut down. The captain plans to leave the system as soon as he has used Andromeda's remote control of the slipfighters to take away the nova bombs.

One of the youths plays on Trance's sympathies, then takes her hostage as an army of children boards Andromeda. Hayek declares Hunt a fraud and blesses 22 slipfighters to destroy Magog and Nietzschean systems. Though the boy plans to execute the entire crew, Andromeda shocks them all by appearing to rescue the crew in the flesh -- the android form Harper has made for her. Hunt forces the young pilots to eject before he activates the self-destruct on all the slipfighters. Though he has reservations about it, he keeps the nova bomb from Hayek's ship on the Andromeda Ascendant. Back at the station, Nassan's brother announces a new mishbrief from Hunt to restore membership in the High Guard.


"To Loose the Fateful Lightning" plays like two episodes crammed into the time of one. The children get introduced so rapidly that one can't tell whether they're slow-aging like the kids of Trek's Miri or whether they reproduce at extremely young ages to repopulate. Since Nassan talks about many generations, it would seem that the latter must be true. But given the rapid bodily decay from the radiation, it's hard to understand how they have enough offspring to survive. There's no suggestion anyone knows about the nova bombs -- not even the kids -- so why haven't the Magog or Nietzscheans simply blown the station away after so many unsuccessful attempts to take it over? That, too, is never made clear in the rushed drama.

The kids' abbreviated dialect and power structure, also reminiscent of Miri, enable the viewer to suspend disbelief. The marginal culture may not appear to make sense in the choppy glimpses we get but it seems internally consistent. Hunt's attitude towards the children is inexplicable -- it's clear he has no experience as a parent when he leaves the station just after revealing a squadron of armed fighters to the young warriors. He tells Anasazi that the children must agree to join the Commonwealth, he cannot use force to make them accept his values. Yet he knows these kids are woefully undereducated -- they can't read, they don't understand the Commonwealth precepts that have been handed down to them. They need guidance from an adult, from a representative of the High Guard, from someone with survival skills. Hunt's desire to get back to his ship and hope they grow up safely seems the height of naivete.

In fact Hunt almost sounds too naive to be a leader. His query to the computer about whether anyone could have survived the supernova is touching in its optimism, but also ridiculous. When Anasazi asks why not take the nova bombs and use the threat of force to make local systems rejoin the Commonwealth, Hunt argues that they'd be creating tyranny. We know every Commonwealth vessel was armed with weapons that could destroy stars: there are two dozen such weapons on this derelict station. The Commonwealth had the threat of force behind its peaceful existence.

Still Hunt can't understand that the word "peace" is synonymous to the children with death to their enemies, at least not until one of those children has destroyed a solar system. The fact that Harper and Bem get along despite Harper's residual hatred of Magog offers hope -- yet Hunt doesn't have Harper talk to Nassan and the others. Instead he plays Messiah, with more concern over his hubris than the likelihood of being found a fraud. These mistakes would cost his crew their lives were it not for Andromeda's deus-ex-machina appearance as an independent being.

If the A-plot seems stilted, this B-plot pops out of nowhere and seems like a cheat. We know Harper is working on a top-secret project, but Andromeda's abrupt (naked) appearance comes as an unpleasant shock even though she saves the day. This allows Hunt to get off easily, disabling the murderous Hayek, but not addressing the kids' long-ingrained messages of hatred and revenge that a new youth group leader isn't going to erase with one speech.

In a way, these kids are from Hunt's own era -- their ties to the outside universe focus on loyalty to the Commonwealth, which hasn't existed for centuries. If Hunt wants to restore the High Guard, he needs to start with a new generation, training young people and teaching cooperation. Bopping around the galaxy spreading goodwill isn't going to accomplish much, even with the threat of supernova as backup. Anasazi seems to understand this. Why don't the rest of them?

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