See Part 1 for disclaimers.
"Whoa!" exclaimed the technician that Mark Burnett had put in charge of monitoring Richard's moves.
"What?" Burnett asked excitedly, having just returned to the control room.
"His movement went from its normal lumbering to lightning fast," the young man explained. "And then back to slow motion."
"That's strange," Mark said as he bent over the radar screen. "I wonder what he's up to?"
"It looks like he's heading toward the forbidden caves," the technician offered.
Why would he go there? the Aussie wondered. Unless...his blood ran cold. "Tapert..." he snarled.
"Can we get our remote-controlled hover-cam over there?"
"Sure," answered the tech. "It might take a couple of minutes."
"Do it," Burnett instructed as his upper lip began to twitch.
Richard peeked through a large bush to see two--what even he had to admit--dazzlingly luminous, dark-haired women.
godconnie and Mezzo were deep in conversation about plot, dialogue and character consistency when Richard burst through the bushes and into their view.
"Aha! I've got you now!" he screamed gleefully.
Mezzo and godconnie's eyes turned the shape of beautiful china saucers.
"Mezzo, how'd he get out?!" cried the dimpled vixen, godconnie.
"I told you that we over-plotted ourselves, gc! Now the characters are escaping!" replied the heavenly siren, Mezzo, in alarm.
The two goddesses looked at each other. "To the Fanfic Cave!" they yelled in unison as they began running.
"It's too late!" squealed Rich, slamming his right bare foot onto the
ground with a hip thrust that would make Richard Simmons envious. "I know who you are and what you're doing! And I want Gabe and the money or I'll bring this whole she-bang crashing down around your ears!!!"
The hauntingly radiant authors froze in mid-run.
"All right, you got us, Rich," said godconnie, attempting to placate the girthful demon from fan fiction hell.
"So, whaddaya want, Rich, huh?" asked Mezzo, breaking into a beautiful and sexy sweat and wondering how the hell they were going to get out of this one. "We can give you anything. A private concert by Ricky Martin? A guest spot on the new Bette Midler show?"
"Tempting...but no," said Richard. "I want Gabe and the money."
"Richard, c'mon brother," winked cool-as-a-delicious-cucumber godconnie whose brilliant mind had already devised a way out of the predicament. "The money's no problem. We can make it so you win. We'll just throw in a last minute cat fight between Soozin and Kelly. We'll even write a glorious white trash speech for Soozin to give at Tribal Council. You're a shoe-in. But, dude, you can't have Gabrielle. She's a girl. You don't like girls."
"Gabe is a man!" insisted Rich. "Rock-hard buttocks, manly he-breasts..."
"Come on, Rich. We'll prove it to you," said Mezzo, catching onto
"No trick?" said an unbelieving Rich.
"Well, we can't trick you now because you've discovered us," explained Mezzo. "We can't manipulate you anymore."
"Who says?" exclaimed an incredulous godconnie.
Mezzo narrowed her luscious green eyes menacingly at the sumptuous godconnie. "The wizard says."
"Wizard? Oh yeah, the wizard," smiled godconnie who turned back to Rich. "Take our hands, click your heels together three times and say, 'There's no face like Gabrielle's... There's no face like Gabrielle's...'"
Mark Burnett's six-million-dollar hover-cam floated over the clearing just as the threesome joined hands.
"Who the hell are they?" asked an irate Burnett upon seeing the voluptuous vamps on either side of his chosen.
Rich uttered the magic words, clicked his bare heels together, and the gay trio disappeared in a bright, rainbow-colored flash of light.
"Sonofabitch!" yelled the Survivor mastermind as he slammed his fists down on the outrageously expensive control panel.
"Where did they go?" asked the thoroughly perplexed technician.
Richard and his gorgeous guides reappeared next to a steamy hot tub on the Survivor yacht anchored in the island bay.
"Xena just won the reward challenge," whispered Mezzo to Rich.
"The reward was an hour in a hot tub. She was allowed to bring one other person from the island," added godconnie. "She chose Gabrielle, of course."
"Gabe!" growled Richard. "By the way, can they see us?" He wasn't looking forward to another neck pinch if the fearsome warrior caught him ogling Gabe's luscious butt.
"No," replied Mezzo, who was feeling like a peeping harlot.
("I read that and we're not peeping harlots," exclaimed an indignant godconnie. "It's for the cause!")
("Oh, the things we do for the cause," said Mezzo, flinging the back of her hand over her forehead.)
The world slowed down to an exquisite crawl as the three watched Xena and Gabrielle soaking in the hot tub. The dark warrior and the blonde bard were laughing about something as they bathed.
"Gods," whispered Mezzo, "When have we last heard them laugh?"
"It's a beautiful sound, isn't it?" murmured godconnie.
There was a playful, comfortable mood between the two women. Gabrielle washed Xena's hair and whispered in the warrior's ear. Xena chuckled and flicked some water back on the grinning bard. It was as if no one existed in the world but the two of them at that moment.
Gabrielle rose from the water to fetch a towel. Mezzo and godconnie quickly turned their backs in respect for her privacy.
Richard leered shamelessly as water inched languidly down the blonde's chest and tight abdomen.
"Now, Richard, really, do those look like he-man breasts?" inquired
godconnie over her shoulder, shielding her eyes from the blinding vision before her.
"So they're....big. So are mine," Richard retorted.
gc rolled her eyes. Mezzo gave a heavy sigh and shrug.
"Rich, sweetie, she's missing some parts that you're rather fond of,"
pointed out Mezzo.
"Maybe the part that I'm really fond of is... well... tiny...." Richard
looked closely at the blonde. "Very, very, very tiny." He paused and then spun around, facing the same direction as his companions. "What was that deal about me winning all the money?"
The island beauties winked at each other.
"We knew you'd come around eventually, Rich," godconnie announced as she and Mezzo each took the reformed Red-Shirt wannabe by an arm.
"Let's talk strategy, objectives...and deliverables," said Mezzo.
"We've got a problem we need you to take care of and his initials are Rob Tapert..." added godconnie.
"Then we'll drop you off at the camp," Mezzo continued. "Whaddaya say?"
Richard shrugged with a bit of uncertainty but nodded his consent.
gc waved her hand and the three disappeared in a flash of disco ball glitter.
The jungle vegetation grew thicker the further inward Tapert ventured. He had lost all track of time and was beginning to worry that the sun would be setting soon.
"Luuuuuuuuuuucyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy!!!!" he yelled to no avail for the hundredth time that day. Where the hell am I? he whined to himself.
"You're being led on a wild goose chase, that's where!" chirped a hovering hummingbird whose voice sounded exactly like that of Chris Manheim, co-producer of XWP's fifth season.
"Not true!" clucked a second hummingbird that, strangely, wore a small fedora hat. "You're being taught a lesson in respect!"
"Steve?" Tapert looked closely at the capped fowl. "Steve Sears? Is that you?"
"You shouldn't have screwed around with the subtext, Rob. If anything, you should have gone maintext!" the male bird trilled.
"That's the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard!" squawked the female.
"Who asked you?" the male flapped at her.
"I still work for RenPics, Stevie..." she hooted. "You need only concern yourself with your little animorphing bimbo show now."
"I'll show you an animorph!" he crowed and transformed himself into a towering black bear; a larger fedora now topping his head.
"Is that the best you can do, little man?" she fluttered and metamorphosed into a raging raptor.
"I'm outta here!" yelped Tapert.
"Wait!" the competitive creatures cried in unison. The rusty-haired man froze.
"I'm here to help," said the female as she returned to her feathered form.
"No, you're here to pitch him more stories that feature Xena swapping spit with Ares or Antony or some other muscled-bound jughead!"
"Sorry, Steven, but those intimate bathtub scenes between the warrior and bard are history, just like you! Right, Rob?"
"I don't know if I'd go that fa..." Tapert was cut off.
"You are a stone cold fool!" the hat-wearing bear roared at the tiny bird. "The subtextual relationship between Xena and Gabrielle is what makes the show stand apart from all of the other drivel on television!"
"That's not entirely tr..." Rob was interrupted again.
"Don't you dare play the subtext card!" the female screeched at the bear. "You know it only appeals to a few horny straight guys and a bunch of desperate lesbians!"
"Actually, our research sho..." The executive producer was denied voicing his opinion again.
"That's rubbish!" the furry male barked at the winged vertebrate. "You're just a raging homophobe!"
"No," Tapert tried to come to the bird's defense. "She's n..."
"Lucy was pregnant!" the fluttering fowl broke in. "We couldn't have a new mother making goo-goo eyes at her best friend! It's just too... hinkey!"
"Bullshit!" growled the grizzly. "A new mother can't make goo-goo eyes at her loyal, loving partner of many years, but she can seduce her arch-nemesis-turned-sleazy-stalker by stripping for him and biting his hairy nipple?"
"Well, I thought it was sexy!" Manhiem said with conviction.
"You're deluded and he's a coward!" roared Sears.
"Hey!" the executive producer took offense to the remark.
"The only reason Rob didn't go all the way with Xena and Gabrielle is because he knew the advertisers wouldn't back him!" the bear continued.
"No money, no seri..." Tapert attempted.
"Shut up!" they both yelled at the executive producer.
"Oh god!" the hummingbird gasped, coming to her senses. "I didn't mean that, Rob!"
"I did," the black bear mumbled under his breath.
"What are you even doing here, Steve?" asked Tapert. "You have your own show."
"I'm here to represent the pro-Gabrielle crowd." He shrugged his wooly shoulders matter-of-factly.
"The show is called, Xena, moron," quipped the hummingbird.
"Thanks Chris," said the redhead. "You are Chris, right?"
"Uh," she thought about that for a moment. "That depends on whether or not you're upset with me."
"That has yet to be determined," he stated, prompting a tiny gulp from the tiny creature. "How did you get in these bodies, anyway?"
"We wrote them," answered Chris.
"It was my idea," declared Sears. "The others plagiarized."
"Yes, he's a genius," she said sarcastically. "He gets one idea and squeezes it dry."
"Kiss my furry ass!"
"Whoa!" Tapert broke in again. "Let's not go there!"
Sears bared his incredibly sharp teeth at the hovering hummingbird.
"Ooh! Scary!" she mocked him.
"Aren't your wings tired yet?" he hoped the power of suggestion would work its magic.
"Focus!" Tapert pointed to himself. They returned their attention to him. "You decided to appear in the form of animals because..."
"We thought we'd be able to blend in this way," explained Steve.
"Yeah," Manheim agreed. "We didn't think anyone would notice a couple extra hummingbirds." She looked at Sears. "Or whatever."
"Otherwise, Renee would flush you out and kick your asses, right?" deduced the redhead.
"Renee?" pondered Chris.
"What's she got to do with this?" questioned Steve.
"She's behind all of this!" declared Tapert, throwing his hands in the air.
"I'm pretty sure she's off planning her wedding," Manheim assured him.
"No! She's here!" Rob proclaimed. "Plotting my doom!"
"Renee doesn't have a vengeful bone in her body," said the former staff writer, Sears.
"That's what she wants you to think!"
"Honestly, Rob," Chris said sincerely. "Renee has nothing to do with this."
"Then who?" he demanded.
"It's the fa..." Before she could finish, a giant, big-breasted, green-eyed raven swooped down and swallowed her up.
"What the hell?" Tapert searched the sky.
"Finally!" Sears laughed out loud.
"What's going on here, Steven?" the redhead said, trembling.
"Divine retribution, my friend," the large animal smiled. "Divine retribution."
"Is..." Tapert whispered. "Is Chris dead?"
"No, just edited out of the story," Sears explained.
"Are you making sense?"
"Would you understand me if I were?"
"What?" asked a confused Tapert.
Rob rubbed his throbbing temples and decided to cut to the chase. "Do you know the way home?"
"Maybe I don't," Sears continued to toy with him. "And maybe I don't."
"Knock it off!"
"I can show you the way back to camp though..."
"No joke?" asked a cautious Tapert.
"No joke." In an instant, Sears was transformed back into a hummingbird. "Follow me," he ordered his former employer as he took off in the direction of the Survivor campsite.
An hour in a relaxing hot tub had done wonders for Xena and Gabrielle's mood. For a short while, they had even forgotten that they were trapped on a remote island in the middle of who-knows-where.
"Wouldn't it be fun if people could come to a magical island," the bard mused between bites of pineapple. "And have their wildest dreams come true?"
"Huh?" asked the distracted warrior who was inspecting every nook and cranny of Probst's motor-powered yacht, trying to figure out where the mast and sail were hidden.
"I think I might write a story like that," Gabrielle said, more to herself than anyone else. "I'll call it... Fantasy Island."
"Uh, yeah," Xena replied, catching the last part of her soulmate's comment. "Right after you finish Nightmare Before Solstice."
"Hey!" the blonde feigned offense. "Are you mocking me?"
"Yup," the warrior winked. Gabrielle launched a piece of pineapple at the brunette who expertly caught it between her teeth and broke into a Cheshire grin.
"Smart ass," the blonde chuckled.
"Why don't you get up off of your smart ass," suggested a good-humored Xena. "And help me figure out how to sail this thing?"
"Do you think that's wise?" the bard asked as she rose from the comfortable lounge chair she'd claimed half an hour before.
"How can we confront the Island Goddesses if we sail away?" the blonde wondered.
"If they're goddesses, Gabrielle," the warrior reasoned. "They'll either stop us from leaving or they'll come after us, thus creating a confrontation."
The Amazon bit her lower lip and contemplated her partner's logic.
"Are you just going to stand there?" Xena asked after a long moment of silence.
"Well, stop it."
The warrior raised a questioning eyebrow and waited for the bard to make a decision.
"All right," Gabrielle sighed dramatically. "I'll help."
Xena smiled at her friend's theatrics, knowing that it was all in fun.
"Do you want to check the upper deck or down below?" asked the bard.
The warrior shrugged. "Makes no difference to me."
"You take the high road, I'll take the low," Gabrielle said cheerily, heading for the nearby descending staircase.
"Yell if you find anything," Xena added as she mounted the steps, two at a time, for the level above.
Below deck, the bard found herself in a tastefully decorated living quarter. There was a large, leather couch in the middle of the room; a bar lined the left side while windows lined the right. This allowed a generous amount of light into the cabin. A massive entertainment center stood against the wall just inside the door. Gabrielle studied it closely. Running her fingers along the frame of the television, she curiously applied pressure to the buttons at the bottom. One of the buttons caused the appliance to flicker to life, giving her a serious fright.
"What the?" she jumped back from the glowing box, her eyes widening at the vision before her. Two young women were making love on a queen-sized bed. The Amazon slowly reached forward and pushed the button again. The picture went black. She ran the palm of her hand over the front of the screen and felt a slight tingling sensation.
"That's peculiar..." she thought. Another push of the button brought the box back to life. This time, the women were rolling around on the floor, next to the bed. The music - if you could call it that - was nerve-wracking. Gabrielle pushed a different button and the screen changed to a series of quick moving pictures of a man driving some sort of mechanical chariot. Another push and the rectangle filled with a close-up of a beautiful bald woman. Her eyes were brimming with tears as she sang about a lost love.
"Xena!!!" Gabrielle screamed louder than necessary. The warrior was rushing down the stairs, chakram in hand, within seconds.
"Gabrielle! What's wrong?!"
The bard nodded at the animated box. "I think I found television," she breathed, staring intensely at the image before her.
"All the flowers that you planted, mama..." sang the onscreen siren. "...In the back yard. All died when you went away..."
"She's lovely," the blonde whispered.
Xena cleared her throat.
"Of course," the bard covered her tracks. "She doesn't begin to compare to you..."
"Cause nothing compares to you," the chanteuse warbled as if on cue. Both Xena and Gabrielle gasped and stared at the apparition before them as she repeated the line over and over.
The bard raised a wary hand and knocked on the glass screen. "Hello?" she spoke to the singing woman. "Can you hear us?"
The vocalist continued to lament her lost love. Finally, her image faded away as another young woman appeared. She was speaking into a microphone - Xena and Gabrielle had seen those at the campsite and Aphrodite had tried to explain the device to the bard when they met on the beach.
"That was a blast from the past," spoke the woman on the television. "1990, to be exact."
"1990?" murmured the warrior.
"In the ten years since then," the woman continued. "Sinead O'Connor has gone from inspiring religious outrage to national wrath to waning interest..."
"Holy Mother of Zeus, Gabrielle," Xena exclaimed. "We're over 2000 years in the future."
"That explains a few things," the bard said, wide-eyed. "I guess..." She pushed another button on the console and the screen was filled with one stationary shot of two men running and sliding on opposite ends of a red-orange field of clay. Each man took turns swatting a small, yellow ball over a net that was strung between the two of them.
"Quinze-zero," said a disembodied voice as the ball slammed into the net.
Gabrielle pushed the button again. This time, the two women she had seen earlier were tangled in a complicated sexual position. Both warrior and bard angled their heads to the right in order to get a better view of the action.
"That's not humanly possible..." stated the awestruck blonde.
"Sure it is," Xena replied nonchalantly. Gabrielle gave her partner the evil eye. "Obviously!" the warrior pointed at the screen. The bard squinted in contemplation. "What else they got down here?" Xena walked quickly away from the TV, hoping to change the subject.
"Hmmph," the bard grumbled quietly and pushed the button that made the screen go black.
"This looks like a tavern," the warrior said as she strolled behind the bar. Gabrielle watched quietly with folded arms.
Xena opened the door of a small refrigerator. "Hey! Look! An icebox!" She held up a piece of ice as evidence. The bard seemed unimpressed. Xena threw the ice back into the box and closed the door. "What's this?" she asked as she pulled a lever marked "Bud". A foamy, yellow liquid shot out of a connecting metal faucet. "Woah!" the warrior jumped back as she released the handle.
"What is it?" asked a concerned Gabrielle as she came closer.
Xena grabbed a nearby mug and held it under the tap. She drew the lever more slowly, then brought the mug to her nose.
"Smells a little like ale," she announced. The warrior shrugged her shoulders. "Here goes nothin'," she said as she raised the glass to her lips.
"Xena!" the blonde warned, but it was too late.
After a taking large swig of the mystery brew, the warrior spit the fluid all over the floor. "In the name of Eli and all the powers of Heaven, that is the most putrid swill I have ever tasted!"
"Even worse than Joxer's soup?" the bard cringed.
"Okay," Xena conceded, wiping her open mouth with the back of her hand. "It's the second most putrid swill I've ever tasted." She made a sour face and stuck out her tongue.
"Well, that's what you get for trying something without knowing what it is..." Gabrielle chastised.
It was Xena's turn to lob the evil eye. Gabrielle volleyed with a mischievous lift of the brow.
"Looky here," the bard said as she picked up the stereo remote control that was lying on the counter. "More buttons." She pressed the one marked Power and the room was filled with loud, thumping pop music.
"Oh baby, baby," the teenaged voice blared through the large corner speakers. "How was I supposed to know... That something wasn't right here..."
"What is that noise?" the warrior grimaced as she covered her ears.
Gabrielle pressed the button again and the music stopped. "Sorry."
Xena took the remote from Gabrielle's hand. "Don't ever do that again."
"I said I was sorry," shrugged the blonde.
"Have you noticed that everything here seems to respond to buttons and levers?" asked the warrior as she hid the remote control behind the bar.
"That does seem to be the case..."
"Come upstairs," said Xena. "I want to show you something."
Steven Sears, still in hummingbird form, lead Rob Tapert back to the outskirts of the Survivor camp.
"There you go," offered Sears. "Back to civilization."
"You call that civilization?" asked an indredulous Tapert.
"Well, it's better than wandering around - lost - in the jungle in the middle of the night," said Sears. "Not that that wouldn't be the perfect metaphor for your recent creative floundering," he added under his breath.
"I'm standing right here!" hollered Rob, having heard Steve's comments. "Doesn't anyone on this island possess an ounce of refinement?"
"Gabrielle's here," the former XWP scribe submitted. "But you don't seem to have much respect for her."
"Gabrielle," Tapert explained calmly. "Is a fictional character. She can't be here."
"Rob," Sears returned, equally calm. "You're denying the possibility of meeting a fictional character while having a conversation with a hummingbird."
"What are you trying to say?"
"Nothing," Sears shook his tiny, fedora-covered head. "I'm not trying to say anything."
"You're just like Renee," grumbled the executive producer. "Always trying to get one over on me."
"For the last time!" the hummingbird shouted as loudly as he could. "Renee is not trying to get anything over on you! She has nothing to do with this! What do I have to do to make you understand that?!"
"Understand what?" Rob asked blankly.
"Arrrrrrrrgh!!!!!!" howled Sears as he flew a few feet back from Tapert, overwhelmed with the need to physically distance himself from such mind-numbing obtuseness.
"Wait a minute..." the rusty-haired man said as a dim bulb flickered over his head. "You're saying that Renee isn't out to get me?"
"Bingo!" Sears yelled so hard that his tiny eyes nearly popped out of his tiny head.
"So I really am hallucinating..." Tapert said to himself.
"That's it!" declared an exasperated Sears. "I'm outta here!"
"No! Steve!" Tapert cried as the small fowl disappeared into the trees. He squinted and tried to determine if his guide had left him for good or if he was just hiding. "Steve?"
There was no sound but the slight rustling of wind through the leaves.
"Fine! Leave a friend in need!" Tapert whined loudly. "You never came up with any good stories anyway! And Sheena?! Come on! It's just a tired re-tread of someone else's idea!" The irritated executive began the familiar trek back to camp. "You'll never catch me turning Xena into an animal," he muttered as he went.
Having easily found the button that produced the retrieval of the power boat's anchor, the bard and warrior made their way to the top deck of the Survivor yacht. After studying the control panel for a few minutes, Gabrielle decided that the button marked Power would be their best bet for sailing. She pressed it quickly and the engine roared to life.
"Yikes!" the blonde cried out as she looked around her for any signs of trouble.
"It sounds like the Barrachus," Xena reminisced.
"I wonder what this does?" asked the bard as she pushed a silver lever away from her. The boat lurched forward so abruptly that both women were thrown to the floor. "Oof!" the Amazon exhaled as her rump connected with a portion of the metal railing that encircled the deck.
As they regained their balance, the warrior took a moment to bestow upon the bard a rather daunting snarl. Gabrielle glared back at Xena and rubbed her backside.
"That's what you get for trying something without knowing what it is," the warrior happily threw the bard's words back at her.
"Hey," quipped Gabrielle. "At least I got the boat moving."
"I'll give you that much," the warrior granted with a hidden smile.
"Now what?" asked the Amazon as they both approached the control panel a second time.
"Hold on," ordered Xena as she moved the lever slowly forward and guided the yacht away from the island with the steering wheel.
"Wow," cracked Gabrielle. "You really do have many skills."
Xena smiled slyly and winked at her partner. Unfortunately for both of them, Xena's skills did not include recognizing when a fuel gauge was fast approaching Empty.
"Aw, Jesus..." Soozin groaned as she spotted the approaching figure. "Here comes Taahpert again."
Colleen scrunched up her perfect little nose.
"I don't know why you guys react so negatively to him," stated Sean. "He's a good looking guy and clearly successful."
"You got a crush on him, Sean?" laughed Kelly.
"No. I just don't know what's wrong with you women these days," he said defensively. "I mean, you're stranded on a deserted island for over a month with an old guy, a lazy guy, a fat, naked, gay guy, and a fairly attractive surgeon and you all still refuse to sleep with me!"
"We aren't here for sex, Sean," the co-ed explained.
"Why not?!" bellowed the doctor.
"We came here to win a million dollars, ya dumbass," Soo chimed in. "Not to get laid."
"But don't you see? You could have both!" he desperately tried to convince them.
"We don't want both!" growled Kelly.
"Ever?" asked Jenna.
"No," Kelly sighed. "I mean with him."
Jenna considered this. "But what if he was the last man on Earth?"
"Yeah!" Sean chirped through his swollen nasal passages. "What if I was the last man on Earth?"
"Sean," Kelly replied solemnly. "If you were the last man on Earth... Soozin would be gettin' her Wigglesworth."
"Gruesome mental picture!" Colleen squealed and waved her hands in an attempt to push the image away.
Upon reaching the campsite, Tapert heard only Colleen's remark. "Let me guess..." he broke in uninvited. "Sears showed you a preview of the new show."
"Sears has a new show?" asked an intrigued Jenna. "Is it on the Home Shopping Network?"
"What?" questioned Tapert.
"I really need to buy some new bedding for the girls when I get home," said the young mother of two.
"Ooo..." moaned Soozin. "Maybe Sears is gonna give us a free shoppin' spree!"
"Why would Steve give you wenches anything for free?" asked Tapert.
"Who's Steve?" inquired Kelly.
"Sears!" he barked. "Steven Sears!"
"Maybe he wants ta promote his store, Taahpert," Soo said condescendingly.
"What the hell are you talking about?" asked the befuddled executive producer.
"I'm talkin' 'bout free booty," replied Soo. "Whaddaya think I was talkin' about?"
"I'd like some free booty," thought Sean, who had been pouting ever since losing his audience to the red-haired TV exec.
"I thought you were talking about Sheen..."
"Why don't youse broads shut yer pieholes!" interrupted Rudy. "Ya got nothin' important ta say, so don't say nothin'!"
"Hey!" shouted Colleen.
"Hush, girlie!" the old man instructed.
"No, really!" the co-ed continued, pointing out to sea. "Isn't that Probst's yacht?"
Tapert and the Survivors turned their attention toward the large motor boat as it sailed past their camp.
"I wonder if Jeff is feeling better?" asked Jenna to no one in particular. "He was acting a little peculiar today."
"He don't usually take this route," said the always suspicious Soo. "What's he up to?"
"There was a yacht nearby and none of you reprobates felt the need to share that information with me?" howled Tapert. He took a few angry strides towards the water. "I could have been out of here two days ago!!!"
At that moment, the landlocked spectators heard the yacht's distant motor sputter and expire.
"That can't be good," stated Gabrielle as she felt the boat lose its momentum.
Xena pushed the metal lever as far forward as it would go but the engine failed to respond.
"It died," the perplexed warrior announced.
"You killed it?" asked the bewildered bard. "I mean, Xena... You've killed a lot of things in your time, but to kill a boat?!"
"I didn't kill it!" the brunette said defensively. "It just died!"
"Boats don't die!"
"Well, this one did!" Xena pushed the POWER button a few times and bent down to look under the control console with the same false mechanic know-how as many a deluded 20th century man. "All I see here are a bunch of wires."
"What's that?" asked a very still Gabrielle.
"What's what?" replied Xena, looking up at the blonde.
"Listen," the Amazon whispered.
A low whistling sound could be heard coming from the vast open space above the ocean. The warrior stood to get a better take on the noise, a swelling breeze blowing back her hair. Her brow creased in deep concern as the noise continued to grow louder until it howled like a shrieking banshee. "Hold on to something, Gabrielle!" she shouted as a great gust of wind hit the side of the boat.
"Not another freak water incident!" cried the harried bard as the waves began to rise and the boat was blown toward shore.
"Ow! That hurts!" whined the already bruised Sean as he and the other onlookers shielded their faces from the stinging sand and water that had started coming their way.
Within minutes, the once powerful Survivor yacht was forced onto the beach by the mighty breeze. And if that weren't impressive enough, once the boat met the shore, it was toppled over onto its side, the warrior and bard sent tumbling to the wet sand beneath them.
"Sonofabacchae!" growled Xena, rolling into a standing position.
"What was that you said earlier about the Island Goddesses stopping us from escaping?" queried Gabrielle as she lifted herself up onto her elbows.
"You know..." the warrior confessed while slapping the saturated grit from her leathers. "Sometimes I'd like to be wrong about something."
"Oh you are, Warrior Princess," cracked Gabrielle as she rose to her feet. "You just never want to admit it."
"Very funny," Xena said flatly as she approached her grimy partner. "You got a little right there," she pointed to the blonde's breasts.
"Where?" Gabrielle looked down and was met with a gentle flick to the nose.
"Gotcha," the warrior chuckled and walked away.
Gabrielle closed her eyes, knowing she'd fallen for one of the oldest tricks in the book. She shook her head, smiled and followed after her soulmate.
A few hundred yards outside of the Survivor camp, a rainbow swirling whirlpool appeared and out of it stepped godconnie and Mezzo with Rich in tow.
"You've got the supplies and you know what to do, right, Rich?" asked godconnie.
"Yeah. Sure." replied the always-arrogant Rich. The Island Goddesses looked at each other, realizing they had, indeed, entered into a deal witt the devil himself. But what are a couple of gorgeous girls to do?
Mezzo looked at her watch. "Heavens! Look at the time. Come on, goddess of all things Connie. We have much more multi-tasking to accomplish." godconnie nodded and the two stepped back through the whirlpool.
Rich tucked his supplies away. He would need them later. His heart still hurt to find out that Gabe was really Gabrielle. But this Tapert guy had a lot of charm in a receding hairline kind of way. He was tall and had curly red hair and a lovely, plump ass. Rich sighed. But Tapert was no Gabe. Still, this was his chance at winning the game, the glory...and the money. Rich set about the task at hand.
Night had fallen on the tropical island. It was cool and crisp and the Survivor camp was fairly quiet. The remaining Survivors, save for Rich, were asleep near the fire. Xena and Gabrielle lay in each other's arms. The stars shone brightly on them.
Good lighting, thought Tapert as he stared at the two with not a small amount of jealousy. He had been more than patient with this whole "I'm Xena" business from LucyÉ but this... this was just too muchÉ although, it was kind of a turn-on.
Tapert sighed. Maybe that Colleen chick is right. Maybe I am in a fan
fiction, he thought. What if that really is Xena and Gabrielle? Tapert watched the Warrior Princess in her sleep. She is glorious, he mused. And her head had already healed from the bump she received earlier. And she was, frankly, more attractive than Lucy and she kicked ass and, oh, those eyes... Tapert shook his head, wondering where these bizarre thoughts were coming from. Lucy was his wife and she was real! He stood up and headed into the jungle.
"Where ya goin' thahr?" Sooozin's irritating voice rang out.
"Potty humor...er, break," replied Tapert.
The executive producer wandered away from camp until he found himself in a small, grassy meadow. It was surrounded by trees and offered a beautiful view of the moon. He was thinking on what new manner of evil could befall Gabrielle in Season Six as he relieved himself.
He was headed back to camp when she appeared. Jet black hair and piercing blue eyes gazed at him from the trees.
"Xena?" said Tapert.
"It's me," she replied, her voice low and husky. "I was looking for you."
She approached him, all leg and thighs and Tapert wished they'd wrap around him and squeeze the life right out. What a way to go. The dark woman grabbed him and pulled him into a blazing kiss. Tapert surrendered.
"It's always been you, Xena," he gasped breathlessly as they tore themselves from each other's lips.
"Prove it, lover boy," she responded as the two figures melted into the ground.
It was a night of passionate lovemaking such as Tapert had never
experienced and could not quite remember the details...except that it felt good. Exhausted and sated, he lay in her strong, unusually hairy arms, not knowing where he ended and where she began...or even why his butt was kind of sore. In a good way. He fell asleep with a smile on his lips. He didn't wake up when the dark-haired woman stole away into the quiet, star-filled night.
The sun shone brightly on the island inhabitants. The Survivors, including the recently returned Rich, Xena and Gabrielle were preparing to head off to the mail tree for the next clue to the day's challenge when they heard screaming. Everyone looked up to the sky.
But, no, it was Tapert, running down the beach toward them, his stomach protruding like he had a basketball under his shirt. He was screaming at the top of his lungs.
"He looks like he's pregnaahnt," laughed Soozin.
"Damn queers," groused Rudy.
"Can he get pregnant?" asked Sean the doctor.
Tapert ran up to Xena.
"You! You did this to me!" the red-haired executive whimpered.
"Well, I have many skills, but..." said Xena.
"We had hot, naked, fabulous sex last night and I woke up... like this!" sobbed Tapert.
Gabrielle narrowed her eyes at Xena.
"I didn't have sex, hot or otherwise, with you last night or any other
night!" exclaimed the warrior eyeing Gabrielle warily.
"Blue eyes, black hair, thighs that can crush walnuts... it was you!" Tapert said fiercely.
"Listen, Tapert. I didn't have sex with you. I mean, really, you're not my type."
"Thaat's right," said Soozin. "The Warrior Babe and Blondie here was at camp all night. I stayed awake to make sure she wasn't pullin' no funny business after you headed into the woods, Taaahhhpert."
"Then what do you call this?!?!" screamed the television mogul pointing at his enlarged stomach.
"Poetic justice," giggled Colleen.
Xena approached the distraught Tapert. She placed her ear at his stomach and her blue eyes widened.
"I'd say you're about six months pregnant," said Xena.
Tapert promptly fainted. Xena caught him and lowered him gently to the ground. Gabrielle grabbed some clothing from the camp and created a make-shift pillow.
Xena went into full-press mode addressing the Survivors.
"All of you should head to the challenge area and we'll catch up after we make sure Tapert's OK," the Warrior Princess said. The Survivors shrugged and headed down the beach without a glance back at the unconscious executive.
"I don't think they care about Tapert," giggled Colleen.
Xena caught the co-ed by the arm "You stay for a bit," she ordered. The Warrior waited until the other Survivors were out of earshot and then turned her attention to Colleen.
"Do you know what this is about?" she demanded.
Colleen gulped her giggles and shrugged. "I'm thinking maybe Tapert here's being taught a lesson."
"I thought we were being taught a lesson," growled a very frustrated Warrior Princess.
"Well, you can get a lot of lessons and stuff into this long of a fan
fiction," replied Colleen. She gasped and covered her mouth as the words she said hit her brain. "Ooops, probably shouldn't have said that out loud," said the cuddly and cute co-ed looking about her warily. She didn't know if the Island Goddesses would be happy to be told their fan fic was, well, long.
Xena closed her eyes for a second and searched for some patience. She opened her baby blues and found Gabrielle's concerned green eyes.
"Gabrielle, we know who's behind this, but we've got to figure out why and how to get off this island," said the angry brunette. "We've been jerked around long enough and it's time we did the jerking."
"Xena, I don't think it's that simple," said the bard said quietly.
"I know, I know," said the now thoroughly exasperated warrior. "But we've got to at least try. I've got a plan."
"Is this a dangerous plan?" asked the bard.
Xean snorted. "No. Just a search and discover. With a little help," the warrior said, glaring at Colleen. The co-ed's eyes opened wide under Xena's gaze.
"You said it was the island goddesses who brought us here," said Xena.
"Uh, huh. Island Goddesses. Capital "I." Capital "G." Beautiful. Powerful. blah-dee-blah-blah," said the cuddly Survivor.
Xena rolled her eyes. "Will they talk to you or appear to you?"
"Their opinion of my cute quotient is quite high, but they've got that
'we're all mysterious' thang going on," frowned the co-ed who suddenly brightened. "But I can show youse to the last place they visited me, if you want."
Xena looked to her soulmate. "Gabrielle, I've got to go and try and talk to these Island Goddesses," said Xena.
Gabrielle nodded. "I know. See what you can find out. I'll stay here with Tapert. I'm sure the Island Goddesses had something to do with this as well. That baby will probably be coming within the next few hours. Besides," said the bard wryly. "You and I are the only people on this island prepared to deal with an unusual pregnancy."
Xena gave Gabrielle a small smile. "We'll try our best to get back before the baby comes." The warrior grabbed Gabrielle and held her close for a moment. She then turned to Colleen.
"Lead the way," she said. Colleen headed into the jungle with Xena
Gabrielle turned her attention to the still unconscious Tapert and his even more enormous pregnant stomach. She looked to the glaring, midday sky and and dragged the unconcious tv executive near a tree to make sure he had shade from the hot sun.
Tapert woke up slowly. He looked down at his stomach and groaned.
"That's it. Obviously reality and I have had a falling out," he said, struggling to get up off the ground with no success. The bard noticed the executive was awake and came to help him.
"Where is everyone?" asked the pregnant executive looking around.
"Xena and Colleen have gone to look forÉ something and the others headed off for another challenge," said Gabrielle.
"Great. Just like a woman to leave you in your hour of need," complained Tapert. "And I get left behind with the sidekick. Wonderful."
"She'll be back soon," Gabrielle said, ignoring the executive's dig and helping the pregnant man upright.
"How are you feeling, Tapert?" asked the bard.
"Surreal comes to mind," the executive replied. "You know what? It's all clear to me now."
"Clear?" Gabrielle asked.
"You see, I thought this..." he waved his hand around at the island. "Was real. And that you were Renee O'Connor and the tall brunette with the copper tits was Lucy Lawless, my wife,"
Tapert caught a menacing glare from the bard. The executive thrust his jaw out.
"What? Is it because I said tits or called your 'Xena' my wife?" Tapert caught the sound of Gabrielle's sais unsheathing.
"Baby on board, sister. I've got immunity from those things," he pointed to his stomach.
Gabrielle looked at him in confusion as she used her sais to spear some fruit hanging from a nearby tree. She knew Tapert needed sustenance with the baby coming soon.
The executive watched as Gabrielle stabbed the fruit, her back muscles flexing and rippling. The fruit was just a little out of reach for her and the blonde bard had to stretch to reach it. His eyes traveled down Gabrielle's hips and then over her thighs and calves.
Wonder how she feels about pregnant men? he mused, flicking his eyes back up to check out her shoulders. Tapert's mind wandered some more and then snapped back to his previous, un-sex-related train of thought.
Must be the hormones from the baby. Lucy was always like this when she was pregnant, the executive frowned. Well, she wasn't that way with ReneeÉ just me, he thought with only a small amount of conviction.
"Where was I?" Tapert said out loud to Gabrielle. "Oh, yeah, anywayÉ I just figured you both had lost your mindsÉ or maybe it was just some flaky actress 'I'm getting into character' thing."
The bard sliced the fruit and handed the pregnant man a piece.
"Tapert, I know that you have some sort of show that's like a play. It's called a television show and it tells of Xena and my adventuresÉ"
"Xena onlyÉ you're just the sidekick and spin-on-a-dime plot device," he replied, juice from the fruit running down his chin.
Gabrielle tensed, took a deep breath, counted to five and continued.
"But I am Gabrielle and your wife, er, I mean the tall brunette, is Xena. We're real. This is real."
"Not real," said Tapert calmly holding a finger in the air. "This is just some strange dream or I've been druggedÉor I took some drugs. I do have a fondness for mushrooms. But whatever, I'm done with it and I am sooo out of here."
The redhead tossed back the last of the fruit and began to walk away from the bard.
Gabrielle knew that if Tapert took off, she wouldn't be able to help the executive when the baby came. She caught up with him, gently restraining the emotional parent-to-be.
"Hands off, not-real woman," he said pulling his arm away.
Gabrielle realized she needed to appeal to the ego of the executive if she were to get through to him.
"Listen, Tapert. You claim to beÉ"
"The power that beÉ that's me," the executive smiled.
The Bard nodded. "Patience, Gabrielle, patience," she reminded herself.
"Since you're theÉpower that beÉif this were your dream wouldn't you be in control of it? Wouldn't you have nice things happening to you instead of bad things? Wouldn't XeÉI mean Lucy, be in love with you? Even if it was henbaneÉ"
"Mushrooms," interrupted Tapert.
Gabrielle sighed. "OK. Even if it were mushrooms or one of your plays about Xena and meÉaren't you the one with the power?"
"Welllll," said Tapert.
Gabrielle rushed on, hoping she could convince the executive of the reality of their situation and maybe, just maybe, get his help. "But you can't control everything here, which is how reality isÉ uncontrollable," reasoned the bard.
Tapert's eyes widened at her argument. His giganticus ego struggled like a bug on a pin. Then he frowned in a moment of actual rational thinking.
"Well, either way: real or a dream, drugs or insanity, my power to be-ness seems to be fucked," he said.
Gabrielle wasn't sure what the last word meant, but she was fairly certain it wasn't a nice verb.
"Tapert, Xena and I think we know what's going on. We're in someÉ place where both our worlds meet. Colleen called it a fan fiction," the bard continued.
"I know all about this 'fan fiction' theory," crabbed the executive. Then the full meaning of the word hit his brain and a startled and suddenly frightened Tapert looked wildly about him. "The FANS have something to do with this?!"
"That's what we think," Gabrielle continued, ignoring the man's fearful expression. "Except it's not fiction this time. It's real. Someone, we think it's the Island Goddesses, brought us here to teach us some sort of lesson or give us some kind of knowledge."
"Teach us? I don't need no learnin'," scoffed the executive. "Especially from the fans. I just need to get my power back and Xena, er, Lucy. Besides, how am I supposed to learn anything in as complicated a plot as what's happening here?! Who could understand this? It hurts my brain just to think about it."
Gabrielle closed her eyes, breathed deeply and counted to ten. The red-haired pregnant man was just too hormonal to hear anything. She had to let it go for now.
"Look, not-real Gabrielle. I'm hot. I'm thirsty and I need to pee... even if this is a dream."
Tapert headed over to a small grove of bushes. Gabrielle turned her back to give him privacy. The executive fumbled with his pants, trying to find the straining zipper. Thank god for stretch material. He couldn't see anything down there beyond his still growing and very round stomach. After a considerable amount of not unpleasant groping and some bitching about the unfairness of it all, Tapert managed to relieve his bladder and zip back up. He stopped to wash his hands in a small waterfall where some conveniently placed soap and a towel lay.
"I can't even see my toes," he grumbled to no one in particular, waddling back toward the blonde warrior.
Gabrielle came over to Tapert, putting her arm around his waist and helping him to sit on a large rock.
"You've got to rest, Tapert. That baby's due anytime now," she said quietly. Memories of Solan, Hope and Eve came to her in a rush. She pushed them away.
"I am not having a baby," sniffled Tapert. "I told you. This is not real. It's just one giant mushroom-induced nightmare and I am waiting to wake up."
Something akin to compassion flickered across Tapert's face as he looked at Gabrielle's melancholy expression.
"Hey, what's wrong? You seem kind of sad," he said to the bard.
Gabrielle shrugged her shoulders. "Memories. We'veÉ Xena and I, that is. We've not had the best of luck with our children."
Tapert was considering going over to Gabrielle and offering somethingÉ words of encouragement, supportÉ maybe even an apology for his part in her suffering. After all, he had made the decision for Gabrielle to become pregnant by DahokÉagainst her willÉand he had Baby Hope written as evil.
Babies aren't born evil, really, thought the executive. Maybe it wasn't the best way to have handled that situation after all. And it had to hurt Gabrielle when Xena got pregnant and I made the writers deem Eve as good, he sighed. Of course, then, after all the murders the adult Eve/Livia committed I allowed her redemption from a shaft of light when Hope was never offered that chanceÉ ouch! Had to hurt.
A wee tear began to appear at the corner of the executive's eye.
And look at what's happened to their relationship in Season Five, he thought. After all, Xena and Gabrielle's love is the heart of theÉ
"Arrrrrgghghghghghghghg!," screamed the nearly hysterical carrot top, startling Gabrielle. "Good lord the hormones are getting to me!"
Tapert ignored his brief, shining moment of compassion as his mind, followed shortly thereafter by his mouth, went howling like a rabid, TV executive dog in the opposite direction.
"If you're trying to get me to feel bad about the whole Hope/Solan/Eve thing, it's not going to work," said the redhead to Gabrielle. "The fans of the show have already tried for YEARS with no luckÉ and you're not even real, so give it up. Besides, everything I did with Hope, Solan and Eve was purrrrfect."
"Tapert, you didn't have anything to do with our children," said Gabrielle warily.
Men were far worse at being pregnant than women, thought the bard. She had to chuckleÉ a pregnant man. Well, stranger things had happened to her and Xena.
"Don't laugh at me and of course I had something to do with it," crabbed Tapert, the hormones from his pregnancy taking full hold. "I created XenaÉYOUÉ everyone on the Xena Warrior Princess show. And it was my brilliant genius of an idea to have Hope born evil."
"She wasn't born evil," said Gabrielle evenly. Tapert stopped for a second, hearing the edge of danger in the bard's voice. But he didn't care. He was Hormonal Man now.
"You know what, Gabrielle? You're just a fictional character and I don't give a damn about your feelings! I never have, really." The red-haired executive awkwardly got up from the boulder and spun around, his pregnant stomach picking up torque and sending him stumbling forward.
"All that matters is me! I'm the power that be, baby. And the FANS have something to do with all of this? Well, fuck the fans, and believe you me, I do every chance I get. I'm tired of people who refuse to bow at my altar of a different Xena and Gabrielle characterization every week! If I wanna rape, pillage, murder and commit infanticide on the show I'm gonna do it and damn the relationship, continuity, consequences, ratings or any kind of bizarro world punishment!" roared Tapert, defiantly shaking his fist in the air. His stomach proudly protruding, red, thinning hair blowing in the sudden, unexplained wind. "And another thing! I'm tired of you and Xena and this island! The way you two hang all over each other, you'd think you were in love or something! Well, you're not. You're just friends. I should know because I created you! But no one will listen to me about it because NO ONE respects my authora-tay around this place. Oh, and as an added bonusÉ I mean really, who plotted this thing?! I'm frickin' PREGNANT!"
Tapert came to a screeching, mid-rant halt. He cocked his head and grinned at Gabrielle.
"On the plus side of things. I'm the one carrying Xena's child. So, obviously, she really does love me," Tapert looked at Gabrielle. "I mean, really, if she loves you so much, how come you're not carrying her baby?"
Gabrielle closed her eyes and counted to ten. She opened them to see an angry Tapert looking at her.
"You wanna piece of me, not-real grrrl? Don't like what I'm saying, girlie-grrrl? Well, I've got another little thought you can stick on those sais of yours. I had hot, hot, HOT sex with Xena last night. Yeah, that's right, Blondie. With Xena!"
Gabrielle unsheathed her sais as Tapert put his fists up into boxing position.
"Baby or not, you're goin' down, Tapert," growled the warrior. She suddenly stopped, as a look of horror crossed her face.
"What was I thinking?" she gasped.
"Ha! You're being the Gabrielle I created!" screeched Tapert triumphantly. "I'm the power that be again! Go, Tapert, go Tapert," the pregnant man began making a circular motion with his arms and dancing.
Gabrielle's eyes widened in shock at the executive's dance. She shook her head, bent over and sheathed her sais. The Amazon didn't need to count to one or ten. She realized how closely she had come, once again, to actions and feelings completely out of her character and nature. Gabrielle didn't know if it was a test from the Island Goddesses or if Tapert really had tapped into some sort of power for a momentÉ and it didn't matter.
"All that matters is Xena and I love each other," said the bard. "We're soulmates."
The executive stopped dead in his dancing tracks. He looked at Gabrielle, unsure of her mood. He raised his hands into boxing position again.
"You know, people have taken that soulmate business way too far. I wish I'd never let you say it in the first place," said Tapert, bobbing and weaving as he prepared for battle.
Gabrielle looked the hormonal she-man in the eyes.
"Look, Tapert. I'm sorry you've had to go through all this. But that baby's not Xena's. She loves me and she would never betray me that way."
"Yeah, yeah, whatever," said Tapert, lowering his fists. "You just keep telling yourself that in your little fantasy world. But here in the real Tapert world, Xena loves me and I'm pregnant with her baby. And why the hell am I sounding like a soap opera?!"
"I thought this was all a dream," smiled Gabrielle.
A myriad of emotions crossed Tapert's faceÉ primarily confusion.
"Stop trying to befuddle me with logic," the executive sputtered. "Logic is the enemy of drama."
Gabrielle sighed and began walking toward Tapert.
"Oh, no, you just get away from me. Women!" he spat. "You're all alike. Rrroll, rrroll, rrroll in ze hay! Oh, yeah, you get to have your fun but then you just sneak away in the middle of the night and who gets stuck with the consequences?!"
Gabrielle shook her head in amazement at the red-haired executive's bottomless well of hormone-induced, melodramatic emotion. But she felt sorry for him. She knew all too well how awful it was to go through a supernatural pregnancy. The bard was determined to make this easier for him than it had been on her and Xena. And it wasn't his faultÉ well, probably notÉ that he was delusional about the Warrior Princess.
"It's OK, Tapert. You need to try and calm down." The bard maneuvered behind the distraught parent-to-be, gently urging him to sit down as she began to give his neck a massage, working her hands up the back of his neck and to his temples.
"You've got to rest. The baby's coming soonÉ" soothed Gabrielle.
His hormonal outburst finished, exhaustion began to take over the executive.
"Am I being punished?" he whined. "I'm being punished for being the most brilliant, most creative television producer ever, aren't I? That's the one thing I never doubtedÉ OK, well maybe for a second back in the cave with JoelÉ but I've never doubted my role as the power that beÉ" Tapert's ramblings drifted away as he gave into the bard's compassionate ministrations.
Tapert snorted awake and opened his eyes.
"Damn sleep apnea," he muttered as he rubbed his face and looked around at a sky of colors so odd and intense that it seemed unreal.
"Dorothy, we're not on the island anymore," he sighed, looking around. There were trees and bushes the color of green as he had never seen.
"Grrrrreat. A dream within a dream - that's not confusing," said Tapert sarcastically. He wondered if this, too, was the work of the Island Goddesses, as Gabrielle had said.
"Island Goddesses" he muttered derisively. "Bah. Humbug."
The executive looked ahead to see a small, swiftly moving stream. Beside it sat Soozin battling the hair on her legs with shaving cream and an industrial-strength razor.
"Ugh," complained Tapert. "Who cast this damn dream anyway? Where are all the nubile, young, pretty women?"
Soozin turned and spied the red-haired parent-to-be watching her.
"Taahpert be warned, Taahpert beware," rhymed the backwoods truck driver as she flitted, well, actually, stumbled over, shoving him onto a rock.
"By gutting the relationship you make trite viewing fare," she continued, straddling the horrified television executive.
"Oh, god, I was wrong. It's not a dream - it's a nightmare!" he groaned.
The truck driver covered his eyes. "Tahhpert be calm, open your eyes... Here there is truth... about Season Five."
Tapert struggled to get away from the tenacious woman.
"Get off me, you non-nubile, backwater wench," he yelled.
"OK," shrugged Soozin. She hopped off the executive and extended her hand.
"Here. Let me help you up," she said. The executive grabbed Soozin's hand and found out just how strong the rustic maiden really was when she flung him headfirst into the stream.
"I non-nubiled your ahhhsss, Tahhhhpert," Soozin said and loped off into the trees.
Tapert struggled and sputtered, barely getting his head above water as he flailed about, trying to get out of the now dangerously fast-moving stream. He heard two calm voices from the banks of the water.
"Absorb thyself in this great sea of the waters of The Relationship. Dive deep in it...until thou hast found it. And having found the relationship, then thou shalt find a fountain of creativity as well as find thyself off this island. Even as it is written, He had his dwelling in L.A., and was a television mogul therein."
"Who the hell are you and help me!" he screamed from the stream, unable to locate the source of the voices.
"Island Goddesses, are we. From our easily fathomable will, the return of The Relationship has its beginning. In our boundless wisdom are all types and patterns of Xena and Gabrielle's love. In other words - it's the relationship, stupid."
The executive was swept under the fast-moving stream. He continued to struggle and was close to losing consciousness when he felt two hands hooked underneath his arms, pulling him from the stream onto dry land.
Tapert scrabbled up off the ground to thank whoever saved him. He looked around to find he was alone and dry. Looking down, Tapert also realized he was quite naked. The executive gasped and jumped behind some bushes.
The redhead managed to get over his sudden nakedness and take a good look at his surroundings. The stream he had just escaped sped along and disappeared into a wall of such thick mist that he could see nothing of the stream beyond it. But all around him was a meadow of a brilliant green with gently rolling hills, trees full of fruit and near the ground, hundreds of bright flowers. It was more beautiful than anything he had ever seen.
"I thought it was just a legend," he whispered in awe. "Could it be? Am I in the Teleysian Fields? Only heroic and creatively cutting-edge television producers get to come here."
The executive frowned. "Dead television producers." He looked down. "Dead, naked, pregnant television producers."
"Wherever I am, I need some clothes," the executive grumbled. Tapert turned and bumped into Soozin. The father-to-be yelped. The Michigan truck-driver pointed and laughed.
"Soozin?! What?! How?" squeaked Tapert doing his best impersonation of a pregnant Demi Moore on the cover of GQ as he tried to cover his manly he-breasts and kibbles and bits from Soozin's view.
"Can't you see I'm naked?!" the executive screeched.
"Being naked won't excuse ya," said Sooozin as she whipped out some khakis, a fishing hat and a baggy t-shirt from behind her back and thrust the load of clothes at Tapert. "C'mon, get dressed, you're in Fifth-usia."
"Hells bells," said Tapert. "So much for the Telysian Fields theory." He glared at Soozin who was still staring and chortling.
"Turn around!" he snapped as he began wiggling into the clothes. The t-shirt had the words Demon Baby On-Board blazened across the front of it with a large red arrow pointing downward.
Tapert frowned, dug deep into the back pocket of his khakis and whipped out a Sharpie. He grinned and began scribbling furiously on the t-shirt. It now read Xena Love Child On-Board. Tapert turned his attention back to Soozin.
"So what, where, is Fifth-usia?"
And much to Tapert's horror, Soozin began to sing.
Fifth-usia (sung to the Illusia from The Bitter Suite)
Fifth-usia, a season
That's gone all to rot
You've had stinky eps
But not like this lot
You've tasted how bad plots
And good coexist
The bitter and sweet of it
All in their love that you dissed.
Xena and Gabby
The Sturm und the Drang
Bring back their love,
That's the choice you've got to make!
Can you undo what you destroyed?
Glide through that stream,
Follow your fate
Oh your balls are in a vice.
Their love you must realize.
If you're to get off this silly island.
Paddle the worth of you on the rebirth of it
Xena and Gabby, don't let them fade
Fifth season sucks,
Your villanous fifth season
Tortures our souls
Descent into hack-dom
Must levy its toll
The murder of their love
Has brought you to this.
Surrender stupidity, suffer sweet continuity
Xe needs her love and soulmate.
Oh, Tapert, your fifth season iced their true love
Come see how that 'vision' denies the show's heart
Fifth-usia is waiting, we'll show you The Way
But choose no relationship and kill their love
Then a steep price you will pay!
Oh...your balls are in a vice
Their love you must reali.....
"That's enough about my balls!" howled Tapert at the singing Survivor.
"You like little ditties, truck-drivin' momma?" Tapert said angrily. "OK, here's one:
Fifth season rules.
Xena and Gabrielle's love drools.
I'm the power that be
and Xena gave me a baby."
At the mention of the warrior's name, a beautiful picture of Xena shimmered into view in the air above and behind Soozin's shoulder.
"Xena," Tapert whispered to Soozin. "Is she here?"
The truck driver stared at the executive in confusion.
"The one who knocked me up, is she in this land?" he asked as he stared into the warrior's ice blue eyes.
Soozin shook her head in exasperation.
"I'm merely the guide, Tahhhhpert,
Along for free booze.
You'll get no maternity test here
If you want to know more...then choose."
Soozin then bowed with a flourish, extending her arm toward the stream. And the wall of mist that had blocked Tapert's view dissipated. He could now see that the stream rolled on in the distance, splitting into two tributaries.
One stream gurgled quietly along. There was even a motorboat tied to a small but sturdy-looking bridge. Further on, the quiet stream floated peacefully into a well-lit tunnel. Above the tunnel a large, lavender neon sign read The Relationship. Hundreds of neon, flashing arrows pointed at the tunnel. Another sign read This way gets you off the island and back to L.A. A third sign stated Yeah, that means YOU, Tapert. In front of the tunnel stood a bevy of nubile, beautiful, ready for their Stuff centerfold, young women. They beckoned Tapert, calling his name and promising him long nights of delirious pleasure.
He looked to the other tributary where a small kayak was tied to a rickety bridge filled with large, gaping holes. Instead of gurgling, this tributary raged over jagged rocks, creating whitecaps and large, monstrous waves. It streamed into another tunnel where he could see the beginnings of a giant whirlpool. This tunnel also had a sign. It read, Season Five: The Year of the Gutted Relationship and Complete and Total Lack of Creativity. There were three smaller signs near it that stated, This way lies certain death! Beware! and Die, Pussycat, Die!
"Hmmm. Easy choice," said the executive as he turned his back on the bevy of beauties and headed for the kayak and white caps.
"That's it. I'm out of here. This Tahhhhpert guy's stooopider thahn Seaaahhn," said Soozin, looking up to the sky.
Tapert cast his eyes upward. "Who are you talking to?" he queried.
"The Island Goddesses," replied Soozin as three rats bolted out of the truck driver's wild tresses.
"We're staying. This could be fun," giggled one of the rats. Tapert's eyes widened in shock as the talking critters scurried off into a nearby bush.
"Did anyone see that?" whispered Tapert.
Soozin frowned at him and then looked back to the sky. "You'll need to send someone else with him. I ain't goin' in thaahhhr. See ya, Tahhpert."
And with that, she strode off.
"You can't just leave me!" called Tapert to the retreating truck driver.
Soozin kept walking, ignoring his plea. The executive became desperate. He did not want to be alone in this strange land.
"C'mon, Sooz. Stay with me. There could be bad guys hereÉ So you gotta stay cause you know bad guys always kill the ugliest person first!" begged Tapert.
Soozin broke stride long enough to throw a glare over her shoulderÉfollowed by her Bowie knife. Tapert dodged as the knife thwacked into a tree beside him. He stared at it and gulped. The executive then turned to give Soozin a piece of his mind. But she was gone. Vanished.
Tapert tugged on the knife but it was stuck hard. "Wow, those truck drivers sure are strong," he said, grunting with exertion.
Meanwhile, back on the Survivor Island, Xena and Colleen arrived at the ravine where Colleen had last witnessed the Island Goddesses power.
"Here's where I met them lastÉ sort of," said Colleen. "They made snow fall just for meÉ it was just like a scene out of Edward Scissorhands," she sighed dreamily, thinking of the gorgeous Island Goddesses.
Xena raised a questioning eyebrow.
"You know, that sweetly sad guy in leather with big, sharp scissors for hands," said Colleen.
"People with scissors as hands are generally dangerous," Xena said. She looked around. "They're not here," she said.
"Wow, did your spidey senses tell you that?" asked the cute as a button co-ed.
"Spidey what?" asked Xena as a small, single snowflake fell on her nose and promptly melted. The warrior's eyes widened and her warrior senses did, indeed, begin to tingle. She looked up to see more snow falling from the warm, tropical sky. Colleen clapped her hands together and smiled.
"They're here now," she exclaimed happily.
"Snow falling on a tropical island," mused Xena. "You don't see that every day."
As the snow landed on the co-ed's face, her eyelids began to droop. "Like. Wow. I feel funny. I think something's happening," she murmured.
The snow fell faster and Xena, too, began to feel sleepy. She shook her head back and forth. Her legs became weak and rubbery.
"It's the snow," Xena said. She looked over to see the Survivor swaying on her feet, perilously close to collapsing. The warrior stumbed over to Colleen as the co-ed's legs buckled. Xena caught her and kneeled, gently lowering the now snoring brunette to the ground.
The warrior tried to get back up with no success. The ground just felt too nice, too comfortableÉ too relaxing. The mighty warrior's eyelids began to close.
Gabrielle was sitting near the sleeping Tapert and she was worried. The executive kept twitching and muttering as if he were having a very bad dream. She wondered if she should wake him up.
"Maybe it's better to let sleeping dogsÉ erÉ television executivesÉ lie," said Gabrielle.
She rose to check on Tapert one more time when she suddenly felt a wave of intense sleepiness take over her entire body. She wobbled on her feet.
"Wow. That was strange," the blonde warrior said to herself as she yawned and rubbed her face. "I usually only feel that sleepy right after Xena and I have had a long night of hot, nakedÉ."
The Amazon Queen hit the groundÉ but softly, as though unseen hands were ensuring her safetyÉ a beautiful, lusty smile on her equally beautiful, sleeping face.
In Burnett's mountain facility, the emergency alarm began to blare once again.
"Reality is Being Compromised," said a computer voice. "Reality is Being Compromised."
Burnett rushed from his luxury suite and down the stairs into the control room.
"What's going on?" he asked, walking to the large screen in the center of the Survivor control room.
A technician hustled in front of Burnett, stopped and saluted.
"Sir, we have a situation with Colleen, Soozin and the guests," he said curtly. "In the past 10 minutes, five people in completely different parts of the island have fallen into an unexplained, deep sleep. Our cameramen have tried to wake them with no success."
The control room screen cut to various shots of Colleen, Xena, Gabrielle, Tapert and Soozin as they slumbered.
The screen stopped on a shot of Tapert snoring.
"Rob Tapert, he's our manÉ" mumbled the executive between snorts, a small smile on his lips. His smile turned into a scowl as he muttered angrily. "Island Goddesses my large, white, executive producer's ass. You ain't the bossa me!"
The hairs on the back of Burnett's neck saluted in suspicion and alarm.
Then the cuddly co-ed's adorable face then appeared on-camera. She smiled sweetly in her sleep.
"The Island Goddesses are soooo beautiful," she sighed dreamily.
The image on the screen cut back to a shot of Soozin who suddenly snorted awake and sat up, grumbling to herself.
"It's about time," crabbed Kelly. "You slept through the entire immunity challenge. Rudy won. Can you believe that? Not that you would have had a chance even if you'd been there."
"Where's my Bowie knife?" asked the truck driver, squinting up at her Survivor cohort. "Oh, yeah. I left it back thahr with the Island Goddesses and that stooopid Tahhhpert."
"The who?" queried Kelly.
"What?" back-queried Soozin.
"You said something about Island Goddesses," prodded Kelly.
"Eh, I was just talkin' in my sleep," said Soozin. "And what do you mean I 'wouldn't have had a chance?'"
Burnett's eyes narrowed watching the truck driver and Kelly bicker as they and the rest of the Survivors began their long trek back to camp. He headed over to a series of control centers and leaned into one of the control center mikes.
"Bring me Soozin," he said firmly.
A pony-tailed Survivor Techno Geek who was stationed at one of the nearby monitors gasped. She stood up from her monitor and came over to confront the producer.
"First Rich and now Soozin? You can't do this, sir. We're here to record only what's happeningÉnot to interfere and try to influence. This is supposed to be a reality television series!"
"What show have you been working for, mate?" laughed Burnett. "We're here to create cheap entertainment and make big money. Besides, reality is in the eyes of the producerÉerÉeditorÉum, I mean, beholder."
The Survivor producer headed back to his control chair, which bore a striking resemblance to an ornate king's throne. He began wrapping his reality show brain around the situation and recent events:
With the tracking implant firmly lodged in Rich's neck, the Survivor technical crew had managed to find him and the beautiful vamps at the yacht. Despite the gorgeous distraction of Xena and Gabrielle's bath-tub play-time, Burnett and the crew were startled by Rich and the vamps' sudden disappearanceÉyet again. And the implant, strangely, ceased to work. Rich's current whereabouts were unknown. And now his guests were talking about 'Island Goddesses' in their sleep. Burnett's producer brain took the facts, put them together and came to a natural conclusion.
"It HAS to be Tapert," Burnett growled. "Who else but an executive producer, even one as incompetent as Tapert, could wield this kind of power?"
Just then three burly guards tumbled into the room dragging a loudly uncooperative Soozin.
"Lemme go! Lemme go!" bellowed the truck driver. "I'll kick all of yas arses!"
"Yeah, right. You can't win an immunity or reward challenge but you'll kick OUR ass," snorted a guard as Soozin flailed about helplessly.
"That's enough," ordered Burnett testily. "Treat our guest with some respect."
The guards nodded and stepped away from the truck driver, releasing her from their grip.
A rat peered out from Soozin's tresses to glare at the guards while the Survivor eyed Burnett distrustfully. The producer approached her, smiling.
"Soozin, you know that you're a special part of the Survivor family," began Burnett.
"Yeah, I'm interesting, controversial and combative," the truck driver retorted, hands on hips, chin lifted proudly. "I make good television."
"True, true. And you're necessary to help make the show a success," said Burnett who walked up to another Survivor Techno Geek and whispered in her ear. The woman shot up from her chair and ran out of the control room.
"Things have gotten a little strange the past few days with the arrival of Xena, Gabrielle and Tapert. We've got Rich disappearing with two women who are not part of the show, snow falling in the control room," continued the Aussie.
"You mean you've lost control of your show, Mr. 'Producer,'" the truck driver ridiculed.
"I have not lost control, mate," replied Burnett with a smile. "Just a small glitch in the process. It's only a matter of time before I come out on top."
"Yeah, you would be on top," guffawed Soozin, wishing Kelly were here to share in the rude and crude joke.
"Wow," said the pony-tailed Techno Geek. "I would've figured Soozin as butch in the streets but femme in the sheets."
The burly guards snickered at the comment. Soozin glared but maintained a Rosie O'Donnell pre-2002 non-committal silence.
Burnett threw the snickerers a look and the guards immediately shut up. The Survivor producer returned his attention to the truck driver.
"Now, Soozin. Xena and Gabrielle being on the island could affect your chance at winning the contestÉ"
"Well, yah, I know. That's why IÉ" Soozin stopped herself mid-sentence. Burnett smiled. He was getting close.
"ÉXena and Gabrielle could also cost you millions of dollars in sponsorships and guest appearances," said Burnett, trying a different tact. "I mean, who is a sponsor going to wantÉyou? Or Xena and Gabrielle?"
"They might pick me, you never know," grumbled the truck driver.
"Well, maybe they would," said an affable Burnett. As he turned his back, he rolled his eyes at the other Survivor Techno Geeks in the room who began to chuckle. "But Tapert's continuing interference could ruin everything for you."
"Tahhhpert?!" exclaimed Soozin. "What's he got to do with anything? He's just a stoooopid, no-talent producer like you. It's the Island Goddesses whoÉ" the truck driver gasped and shut her mouth abruptly.
Burnett's eyes narrowed, the tip of his tongue slipping out of and back into his mouth with reptile-like quickness.
"Ssssso," whispered Burnett, snake-like charm oozing out of his producer pores. "Tell me more about these Island Goddesses."
"No. I got a pact with 'em. We gals gotta stick together," said a defiant Soozin.
"Cat's out of the bag, now, Soozin," Burnett smiled. "You may as well tell me the whole story."
"I ain't tellin' you nothin'!" the truck driver yelled.
The Survivor Techno Geek re-entered the room, handing Burnett a large amulet on a chain. In her other hand was a syringe full of a lavender material that oozed and bubbled with a life all its own.
"Hold her," Burnett said to the guards. The three burly men grasped Soozin's arms, keeping her from moving. The Survivor Techno Geek strode over to Soozin and gave her a quick, mostly painless, shot in the arm.
"Hey!" crabbed the truck driver.
"Sir, I must protest," said the pony-tailed geek.
Burnett smiled. "Go ahead. Make some signs, march around the facility, chant some slogansÉlose your job."
The pony-tailed geek gulped and sat down.
"I thought so," said Burnett. He returned his attention to the truck driver, walking slowly up to her as the amulet swung gently, hypnotically, back and forth.
"You will tell me everything," grinned Burnett. "Because I know how to get to you." He stopped the amulet from swinging so that Soozin could get a good look. It held a picture of Kelly composed of thousands of dots.
"Just stare at the picture until your eyes lose focusÉand then you'll see a special surprise picture in 3-D," whispered Burnett.
"Don't look!" squealed the rat from the truck driver's hair.
"What was in that shot you gave me?" asked Soozin loopily as the drug began to take effect. She was barely managing to look away from the amulet.
"We have all the Survivors' pheremones on hand. Just in case we needed to add a little sexual tension to the show," said Burnett. "This syringe is full of pheremones we distilled from Kelly."
Burnett moved around to place the amulet in Soozin's line of view once again.
"Phere-what?" said an increasingly disoriented truck driver.
The rat rolled his eyes. "Kelly moooojoooo," it whispered in her ear.
"That's dirty pool, Burnett," snarled Soozin.
"A producer's gotta do what a producer's gotta do, little gal," he replied slyly.
The truck driver struggled for a moment as she resisted Burnett's last temptation. But then the secret picture came into focus.
"Ohhhhhh. My," whispered the truck driver as her normally unhappy, dour face crumpled into a goofy, stars-in-her-eyes, smiling visage. "Keeelllllyyyy."
Burnett waved his hands in front of the Survivor's eyes. She didn't blink or move. The producer smiled. He had the belligerent Survivor exactly where he wanted her.
"Now. Who are these Island Goddesses," said Burnett soothingly.
"PowersÉthatÉbe," replied Soozin dreamily, staring at the secret photo of Kelly.
"No. I'm the power that be," said Burnett testily.
The truck driver gave a serene snort. "You think you are. Tahhhpert thinks he is. But the Island Goddesses have the real power. They brought Xena and Gabrielle here to the island. They brought Tapert here. They captured Probst before the reward challenge."
"What?!" exclaimed Burnett. "They captured my lap boy?"
"Yes. They needed to manipulate the outcome of the contest. They told me soÉ well, they bragged about it actually."
"No! They can't have that much power," said Burnett, reeling from the fact that the vamps had managed to make such a galling move within his territory.
"But they do. The Island Goddesses even created Fifth-usia. They have much, much more power than you. And they're soooo beeeeyoootiful. But not as beautiful as Keeeellllly."