Don't Talk to Strangers (War Saga I)
David J. Duncan
March 2002

Notes: The characters from Forever Knight belong to Sony Tri-Star. The characters from Xena: Warrior Princess belong to StudiosUSA and Renaissance Studios. The characters from Hercules: The Legendary Journeys belong to StudiosUSA and Renaissance Studios. The characters from Andromeda belong to Tribune and were created by Gene Roddenberry. In addition, these characters are the property of the owners/creators. All other characters are fictious and are of my own creation. Please send comments to


[Queen's Hut, Amazon Village 82AD]

Gabrielle, Bard-Queen of the Amazons, writes....

The prophecy, which we all thought had been prevented, did come to pass. The storm clouds of doubt and discord mounted on our horizon, threatening to destroy everything. According to our mystic, Nai-Jin, a deadly alliance had been forged in the dimensions beyond. This agreement meant to be the end of all.

This scroll tells of the first wave of this attack. Ironically, it started with a message, seeking peace....

Chapter 1

[Dahak's realm]

Within the fiery underworld, Dahak squirmed in discomfort on his throne. His plans were failing. Despite his best efforts, the carefully crafted missions he had sent to the outer world had failed miserably at the hands of Xena and Hercules. On the last expedition, he had sent his newest follower, the vampiress, Divia, to resurrect his daughter, Hope, and destroy any opposition. Ironically, a mortal fool had performed her first task, inflicting the demon-child on the world once again. However, Xena had found a way to revive herself, standing firmly against the deadly duo. Worse still, she had allies including Gabrielle, Hope's traitorous mother. Battling for hours, the dark agents were defeated and nearly eliminated before he pulled them to safety.

A scream echoed through the flames. "Hope has to learn that she cannot fail me," he stated. "As a good father, I must discipline her."

"Indeed." Divia winced, rubbing the scars from her own fiery torment. "But you know best, Master."

The hideous lizard-like face contorted itself into a grin. This one had finally learned some respect. "She has potential," he thought. At the right moment, he would send her out again to do his bidding. For now, she needed to observe how true darkness was perpetuated. "Are you here to praise me, Divia, or was there something else?"

The former Roman scowled. As much as she needed to play this game, she hated how he'd rub her nose in it. "There are two entities to see you."

"Yes, I know. Go! They approach even as we speak."

She ground her fangs, the crass dismissal grating at her gut, but forced herself to do as he bade.

A minute later, the two visitors appeared in front of him. One was a glowing ebony energy-being with white pinpricks for eyes and hate spewing from it. The other appeared mortal, standing about 6 feet in height with pathetic pink skin and jet-black hair. As with his companion, this one's eyes literally glowed with dark power.

"The Spirit of the Abyss, I trust? That is what you're calling yourself these days?" Dahak growled.

The energy being roared, the unearthly noise unintelligible even for Dahak's ears.

["Use telepathy," the host urged.]

[The ebon one repeated itself, "Yes, that is what my followers call me."]

["Very good," Dahak replied.] Turning to the other, he asked, "And you are Lousain of the Dark Lands?"

"That is I," the dark haired one acknowledged with a fierce grin. "I appreciate the invitation, Dahak. What is the matter of our business?"

"Revenge," the lizard-thing hissed. "Revenge against our enemies! Dominion over the world above!"

["And beyond," the Spirit added.]

"Yes, that's all well and good, but I'll need time to completely revamp my armies. It's taken me almost fifteen Earth years to do so," the Dark Lander noted.

"If you agree, I'll do it in an instant," Dahak indicated. "You're the mightiest wizard of the Dark Lands, Lousain. I want you with me especially given the mortals we must face."

"Outside of the rabble from Nurrengard, there are only a few from the outer world whom I care about," the wizard argued.

"Such as Dubois?"

At his host's utterance of that name, he roared in displeasure. "Cursed interloper! I would see him dead and in torment!"

"You may yet get your chance. Join me and together the three of us will conquer and have our way!"

The other two visitors looked at each other. For a moment, telepathic jabbering went back and forth between them. Then, they turned to face Dahak once again. "We will help you," the wizard agreed.

["My forces are ready," the Spirit indicated. "They await the signal."]

["And they shall have it," Dahak crowed. "Yours will be the first wave, and my forces will be second. Will that give you sufficient time, Lousain?"]

["It shall," Lousain indicated to them both. "I await word from you both."] With that, he vanished in a burst of bloody red heat and light.

Dahak smiled in grim satisfaction. Soon, the first wave would move, and the mortals themselves would be the ones who would cause it to happen.

Chapter 2 [Tucson]

After an exciting late May and early June, the Dubois family enjoyed a quiet summer. Life became routine while everything seemed normal. The group shared the solstice celebration with Cybelle who was named the new High Priestess of Althanor at that celebration. Several cookouts and trips to Tanglewood had also paved the way for a wonderful summer as well. Finally, Dave and Angie had continued to practice with their powers, bringing them more under control.


A somber cloud layer dominated the early morning sky on August 1st. For the Duboises, it was another early morning like any other. Angie had her reports to do and rounds to perform. Dave had two classes from the second summer session classes to teach and an almost completed book manuscript waiting in his office.

"It's been a great summer," he remarked, sipping on his french vanilla coffee.

"It has, hasn't it?" she asked. "No super villains. No kidnappings. No mutant witches attacking us." Then, a wry smile crossed her face. "And no suicide attempts on your part. You must be ready to go into withdrawal by now, aren't you?"

"Withdrawal?" he probed. "Over what?"

"Your weekly dose of trouble," she baited, kissing him on the cheek.

"Hey, dull's been good," he commented. "My classes have gone well, and if things stay quiet, I might be able to get this book off to the publisher before Labor Day."

"Dull's good?" she chuckled. "I never thought I'd hear you say that."

"I've never had my students involved like that before in a mess," he stated, staring at her. "Oh sure, there were the Alti crises, but give the hag credit, she let the kids go before we danced. Those bozos in the raincoats didn't care one way or the other."

The oncologist rubbed a sudden phantom itch on the back of her neck. Two months earlier, she and one of the new students had been kidnapped. In the process, her father-in-law had stuck her with something to knock her abilities offline. Only with some outside help did she get that stuff out of her system. "You can say that again," she groused. "Well, we need to get into work."

"Already?" he asked, looking at his watch. Sure enough, it was 8:15. "Dang it. Reality calls."

Putting on her overcoat, she wondered, "Do you want to go to the radio telescope demonstration tonight? I hear it's going to be quite the show."

His eyebrow twitched skeptically, "Princess, it's only a first attempt."

"It's history in the making, Mr. Historian. I thought you'd like to be there to chronicle it. Think if Marco Polo and Henry the Navigator were like you right now..." she lectured.

"What about the twins?"

"What about them?" she asked. "It'll be dark. They'll sleep through it."

"If you say so. How about Eve and Francesca?" he relented.

"They're coming as well. It should be a lot of fun." She grinned, savoring the victory.

"Okay. Well, I'll meet you at the hospital after my 4:30 class. Shall we?" he noted, opening the door.

"We shall," she concurred, stepping through before he closed and locked it.

Life had been good for them and they wanted it to continue in this fashion for some time more.


Across town, Tracy Brown stepped out of her shower, stretching her arms toward the ceiling. The previous night's shift had been a tough one. Two more homicides on the southwest side of town brought the number to seven with the same m. o. over the past few months. Of course, she, Schanke, and Nick scoured the scene looking for clues, but came up with precious little. Even Nick's enhanced senses had found next to nothing in terms of answers. Whoever this perp was, he certainly knew how to cover his tracks.

Covering herself in a cotton bathrobe, the blonde detective ambled out into her living room. There, on the couch bed, her new roommate, Javier Vachon, lay watching her every move, admiring her beauty.

"Hey," he greeted. "I didn't want to ask about your night before you took your shower."

"Smart move," she chuckled, sitting down beside him. "I feel civilized after my cleansing session."

"Oh, so your beast retreats during the daylight and the steamy shower, eh?" he kidded. "Maybe I ought to take you to the Amazon rainforest?"

The thought of being with him in that wild place entranced her. While she knew he was teasing, Tracy had determined that one day she would hold him to a romantic getaway of that nature. Natalie was still raving about her weeklong getaway with Steve Petersen. Since that time, the pathologist appeared to be positively radiant. "Thank God that Nick's relationship with Alyce Harris is going well. I would have hated to deal with him getting jealous," she thought, frowning.

"Thinking about Miles and Natalie again?" the former conquistador interjected.

"I can't help it, Javier. They're both my friends. It just seems funny to see them with other people after they were on again, off again for so long," she sighed, rubbing his arm.

"They're big kids, Trace. Hey, everyone's a lot happier. That FBI guy's making the coroner happy. And I don't remember Miles being this upbeat in Toronto. Believe me, the Community's very happy with Nick and Alyce right now, especially LaCroix."

"Yeah. Keeping him satisfied is a good thing, I'm sure. At least his feud with the Duboises has subsided a bit," she assumed.

"Oh, it's still going. They just declared a truce for a little while both sides deal with the aftermath of the Dijon mess and the kidnapping crisis. Something'll happen and the Old Roman will be at their throats again," he noted.

She thought of Xena taking on the Elder. Ramirez was eating nails now. What would he do if that mess got started again? Recalling Reese's reaction to the first face-off between the two ancient adversaries, she was glad that nothing had happened for a while.

"You're too serious," he cracked.

"Oh really?" she giggled, her eyes sparkling at him. "And what are you going to do about it?"

"Watch me," he directed. Grasping her arm, he tugged her toward him.

She didn't resist, choosing instead to fall into his embrace and snuggle with him under the covers for the day in an attempt to work out the kinks so to speak.


Within the loft, Nick stared at the ceiling, wondering what that night would bring. As with his friends, the last two months had been enjoyable for him. Without the usual villains taking aim at the Old Pueblo, life became fairly normal for the TPD. For the most part, the detectives went back to their routine homicides. However, the latest string of murders baffled him. Why weren't there any traces of evidence at the scene? It was almost as if the perpetrator had wiped the areas clean before he and his partners arrived. "Sooner or later, he's going to slip up, and then we'll nail him," he told himself.

"Nick?" Alyce's voice murmured sleepily next to him. "You still thinking about that case, aren't you?"

"Sorry, can't help it," he responded glumly.

"I know. You really care about your life and the job. That's what I love about you." She smiled, kissing his cheek. "Still, you haven't slept in days. Please try for me."

"All right," he agreed, closing his eyes and drifting off into an uneasy slumber.


Chapter 3

Dave sat in his office, pouring through sources and taking careful notes. It had been a productive day. Both classes had been very responsive and had in-depth questions for him. The meeting with the librarians produced several promising ideas for further study. Finally, in the past hour, he had stumbled across a major find for his manuscript. All in all, it had been an excellent day indeed.

Then, the familiar buzzing sounded in his head. "Leave it to Angie to send me a subliminal message," he chuckled. The clock on his desk indicated 4:30. "Time to go." Picking up his coat and umbrella, he locked the office door and walked out the side door where Eve and Francesca were waiting for him.

"We were wondering if you'd remember," Francesca teased. "You were so intent on your research."

"The wife sent me a reminder if you get my drift," he noted. "No, she wants to do this. I think it's a historical event as well."

"Hopefully, this first contact will be one of peace," Eve wished. "May Eli make it so."

"There's enough lunacy here on Earth for us all," he agreed as they passed the Economics Building. "A few more allies never hurt anyone. Besides, a peaceful contact would be a good example to follow here."

"Amen," the former Messenger said serenely, sharing in his hope.


Several hours later, Angie stood under the darkening skies, staring up at the stars. Since she was a child growing up on the farm, the question of who was out there had always percolated in her mind. "Maybe Dr. Farnsworth's project will bring some sign to us," she hoped.

["I wonder what kind of trouble is beyond that ring of stars?" Xena asked.]

["Xena, there's not going to be any trouble," the oncologist asserted.]

["C'mon, Angela, that's incredibly naive coming from you," the warrior replied evenly. "I'm not saying that there won't be any good people out there. I just find it easier to prepare for the worst and hope for the best. I just feel uneasy about this for some reason."]

["It's not like Ares is lurking up there," Angie gibed.]

["You could be right. It could be worse than him," Xena retorted, a smile tugging at her mouth in spite of herself. "Well, I'll be close by in case you need me."] With that, she went silent.

The doctor walked back over to where her family and friends waited for Farnsworth to start the demonstration. It wouldn't be long now.

In fact, a young Native American man stepped onto the podium at that very moment. Paul Farnsworth had labored on this project for many years through his graduate studies and early career as an astronomer. Now, the machine was ready, and, as with his colleagues, he wanted to find other peaceful peoples to communicate with. Looking at his watch, he saw that it was 9PM. "Ladies and Gentlemen, Fellow Colleagues, thank you for coming out tonight for this demonstration. For countless millennia, our forefathers stared up at the sky, wondering what lay beyond our planet, asking about their neighbors on other worlds and galaxies. These questions have served as the basis of our science fiction and fantasy. Tonight, we take the first bold step toward finding our neighbors. This device, the Farnsophone, will send a signal deep into space. Unlike conventional radio messages in the past, I've found a way to encrypt messages into a focused laser beam. In this fashion, the signal will travel at light speed, crossing greater distances in less time. Perhaps now, we can all hope for a response in our own lifetime. If you're all ready, I've prepared a message. 'Hello from the planet Earth. We send you peaceful greetings and wish you well. Could you respond and let us know about yourselves? We would like to meet you. Thanks.'," he announced.

Francesca observed the proceedings carefully, knowing that Gabrielle would want to transcribe these events on the "electronic scroll" for posterity.

Eve silently prayed, hoping for a amiable response.

Dave hugged his wife, wanting the best for her sake. Despite this optimism, he shared Xena's fear. "Why is it that I get this feeling that we're about to open a Pandora's box?" he thought to himself.

Even if he had wanted to stop Farnsworth, the latter had already pushed the button, sending the message shooting into space. There was no going back now.


[Dahak's realm]

The demon lord grinned as he sensed the doubts coming from his adversaries. "Soon, it'll be too late for you to stop it," he savored. Then, the light beam shot up into the heavens.

[Turning to the Spirit of the Abyss, he urged, "Now, redirect it to where your masses will see it!"]

The dark deity screeched in pleasure as it refracted the message beam, redirecting it through a convenient portal in the slipstream.

"Peace indeed," Dahak laughed. "They'll get peace all right. The peace of oblivion."


Chapter 4 [The Sans Mar Cluster, 2.3 million light years from Earth and about 10,000 years in the future]

Far away across the vastness of space, a lone ship moved at sublight speed through the heavens, insuring that all was well. The Andromeda Ascendant, despite her age, still held respect throughout known space and with all peoples. As in the glory days of the Commonwealth, the vessel represented the federation's beauty, grace, and power. Now, even as it conveyed the small crew and her captain, Dylan Hunt, around the galaxies in a quest to reforge its reality, threats constantly popped up on the radar.

In the command center, the first officer, Beka Valentine, sat behind an impressive array of instrumentation, guiding the ship's passage. The former spice runner cut an impressive figure with her well built frame and single blonde ponytail running down her back. Her icy blue eyes cut into the depths portrayed on the screen. Despite the fact that all appeared to be quiet, her instincts told her that something was about to rear its ugly head.

On the platform beside her, a massively built male also kept watch on things. Tyr Anasazi of the Kodiak Pride was a mountain of a man with a fierceness to match his prowess. Always looking to protect his self-interests, the Nietzschean remained on alert for any irregularities. "So do you think the Phalondrians will sign our Captain's charter?" he asked skeptically.

She raised an eyebrow at him. For the past four hours since they had been on shift together, he hadn't paid any attention to her, much less said anything. "They should if they know what's good for them. Their technology's just coming up to snuff, and they'll need all of the help they can to defend themselves."

"Another worthless people for Dylan to pander to," he snorted, making a minute adjustment to keep them on course. "I'd say that only the strong survive."


"It sounds like something he might have said," he stated, always reveling in quoting the guiding force of his civilization.

At that moment, the image of a thin yet well-built woman with chin-length black hair and piercing eyes appeared in front of them. This was the ship's 'spirit', and she commented, "Actually, Tyr, I believe that you're referring to the ancient Earth belief of 'Social Darwinism'. Charles Darwin, an evolutionary scholar, preached that philosophy, not Nietzsche." As she made this observation, a slight smile spread across her face, anticipating his reaction.

Beka smirked. She loved it when the chocolate-brown giant was wrong, especially when the AI corrected him.

He simply growled and shook his head silently. Between the fire in his eyes and the smoke coming out of his ears, no words were necessary.

Andromeda shrugged. "Everything seems to be all right here. I'll see what Dylan's doing." With that, she vanished into thin air.

"Stupid ship," he muttered almost inaudibly, forcing himself to keep his eyes straight ahead.


Two levels down, Dylan Hunt dribbled a basketball on the hardened concrete floor. The recent string of negotiations with the Phalondrians and Kelsarians, while productive, had left him exhausted and in serious need of downtime. With each impact of vinyl against floor, each swish through the net, the brown-haired, blue-eyed survivor of the original Commonwealth began to unwind. But, as his ship's avatar often reminded him, he was only human. Sometimes he wondered why the powers that be had placed him on the great stage. Why had fate held him on the event horizon, keeping the Andromeda from the crushing grip of the maw? Why did it now fall to him to hold off the Magog advance? Sighing, he took another shot, clanking it off of the rim.

"Figures," he groused.

"You know, if one hits on every attempt, life wouldn't be challenging. That's not the way that the Divine does things," a low, gravelly voice interjected.

Dylan chuckled, "I'm always amazed by your sense of timing, Rev."

Rev Bem nodded as he approached the captain. Despite the thick fur, intense eyes, fangs, and claws, which he shared with his Magog brethren, the Wayist priest pursued peaceful pursuits, choosing to reflect on the inner peace of the universe. Oftentimes, when his companions felt frustrated, he would counsel them. In doing so, he would help himself as well. "Are we not all where we're supposed to be? The Divine would say yes. Do not beat yourself up, Dylan."

"I know. It's my job to rebuild the Commonwealth," the human commander sighed, hitting a jump shot. "I wish I had some more help."

Rev supposed, "Sometimes, one needs to be the first in a line of defenders. When one builds a house, what must be laid first?"

"A foundation."

The Magog grinned. "And how do you start a foundation?"

"By laying the first brick maybe?" Dylan asked perplexedly. "And your point is?"

"Precisely!" Rev exclaimed. "And it has fallen to you to be a teacher of the Old Ways. You must remind people of their heritage, of the glories embedded in the Commonwealth. If it wasn't time for such things, Dylan, you wouldn't be here right now."

"And if I didn't need an example in that regard, nor would you, right?" Dylan smiled, a friendly jab coming through in his response.

"I only do what the Divine wishes me to do, Dylan," Rev replied. "Perhaps, I was meant to guide you. Perhaps, you were meant to guide me. No matter, my friend, we take this trip together wherever it leads us."

"You don't know how much I appreciate that," the captain assured his crewmember. "No, over the past two years, I've learned that each of us has our own purpose in this endeavor. I don't know, nor can I worry about, what those roles are, but I'm happy you all are here."

"As we are to have you with us," Rev concurred. "Well, I'll leave you to your basketball." With that, the Wayist shuffled out of the room and down the hall.

Dylan continued his game of horse for a few more minutes, still thinking about everything. However, Rev's advice had helped him to relax and reminded him that the crew was there to help him despite their various agendas.

At that moment, Andromeda's image appeared in front of him. "Dylan?" she asked.

"Andromeda," he acknowledged, cutting a shot short. "Anything the matter?"

"No, everything's quiet. I was just wondering how you were doing," she noted with concern.

"I'm okay," he feigned, adding a smile for show. "You know me, tough as nails."

Her eyes narrowed as she assessed her captain's body language and vital signs. Despite the fact that he wouldn't admit it, she knew that he was on the brink of exhaustion. Both he and the crew needed a shore leave badly, but with all of the negotiations, he wouldn't allow it. Sometimes, she wished she had more say in what went on. "Still, Dylan, I wish you'd consider taking a rest. The crew could use a breather as well."

"After the next destination," he affirmed.

Her right eyebrow arched skeptically. How many times had she heard that one before? "I'll hold you to that."

"Okay," he relented, putting the ball away. "Give me a few minutes to get cleaned up, and I'll relieve Beka and Tyr."

She nodded and vanished into thin air.

Toweling himself off, he made his way toward his quarters, wondering what would happen next.

Chapter 5

An hour later, Dylan walked out onto the command deck. Everything still looked normal, yet he began to feel uneasy. Somewhere in the darkness, the Magog lay in wait for them and every other unsuspecting world that happened to fall into their path. "Status?" he requested.

Beka replied flatly, "Nothing new, Dylan, just stars and space. When did you want to go to slipstream?"

"In a few minutes," the captain indicated. "Are you picking anything up, Tyr?"

"Nothing that would disagree with the First Officer's assessment," the Nietzschean reported with a frown.

Then, the alarm claxons sounded loudly and the lights flickered on and off. On screen, Andromeda said, "Dylan! We've got trouble. Incoming Magog swarm ships from slipstream."

"Wonderful," Tyr muttered, his fingers running across the keyboard, readying the weapons for the impending assault.

"Harper, Trance, and Rev Bem to command on the double," Dylan commanded into the intercom. "Code Black."

Beka glanced over her readouts. The incoming fleet had 30 ships, however, the world ship was nowhere to be seen. "I wonder where their home base is?"

"It's a scouting party, still thirty of those ships is enough to keep anyone occupied," Tyr added condescendingly.

The captain studied the screen in front of him. The enemy fleet had assembled in front of his ship, ready to advance at their signal. As he heard the remaining crewmembers take their positions, he still feared the size of the force in front of them.

Then, a loud screeching noise sounded throughout space, leaking through the hull, and causing the group to hold their hands over their ears.

The thin, human engineer, Seamus Harper, winced, recalling that the noise was actually the Spirit's method of communication. "What's it saying, Rev?"

The Magog stammered from his knees, "I..It's telling the others to follow the path. There's a world it wants them to attack."

"There are no worlds around here," Beka wondered. "Where?"

Then, they saw an enormous slipstream portal open in back of the Magog armada. Turning, the ships pushed through it, disappearing from view.

"Dylan, my scans are detecting something unusual about that portal. It seems to be radiating strange energies, almost like those from the nexus," Andromeda's robotic avatar reported from the secondary weapons position.

Trance Gemini, the purple-skinned medical officer, scanned the probable futures for them all. In them, she saw them fighting these invaders on a familiar world, yet something was very different about it. "Dylan! They're going to invade a planet."

"Tell us something we don't know, Trance," Dylan sighed, still trying to decide what to do.

"No! They're going back in time to invade a planet before it can defend itself! We have to help them!" she pressed.

The captain glanced at his medical officer cautiously. Even though he knew she could see possible futures, he was wary about risking their safety in any event. Still, he was bound to protect any planet against Magog incursions. "That's all I needed to hear. Rommie, can you follow the Magog?"

"There are enough of a residual energies from their slipstream signatures for us to do so," she reported.

"Do it," Dylan commanded. "Beka, go to slipstream."

The first officer nodded and lowered the overhead equipment into place. Then, pulling a lever, she saw the glowing portal appear in front of them. "Hang on, everyone." With that, she sent them all into slipstream, rocketing across light years and back through time itself.

Chapter 6 [Tucson]

Additional note: For those folks not on the Forever Knight Fanatics list (and why not?), the second encounter between Dave and Divia came in "Gate Crasher (or Proving One's Point)" from June 2001. This is available on the "Story Emporium site".)

Even as Farnsworth's message headed into space, LaCroix read the evening edition of the local news. The coverage of the event splashed across three pages, calling it "a new era". The vampire DJ frowned at the use of this invitation. After two millennia, he certainly knew when to leave a sleeping lion to its own devices.

Then, the buzzer sounded, cutting into his reverie. "Ah show time," he realized, taking another sip of his bloodwine. Placing the headphones on his head, he started, "Good evening, Gentle Listeners. This is the Nightcrawler, and once again, I shall patrol the night with you all. It's history time, once again. The topic for tonight's discussion is trust and opening your arms to the unknown. When is it wise to do so? Did Julius Caesar not keep Antony too close? Look what happened to him-stabbed in the back. What a pity. Then, we all recall the lesson of the Trojan Horse, do we not? Did not the saying 'Beware of Greeks bearing gifts' come from this episode? Apparently, we have forgotten this simple truth for tonight, an all-knowing professor has sent an open invitation to those beings beyond the pale. I think we're too occupied with our science fiction these days, thinking that we're the ultimate power in the universe. My Children, that is the stuff of pure folly and nonsense. What do you think? The lines are open."

At that moment, the lights started to blink on his board.

"Ah yes," he crooned, picking up the phone. "You're on the air."

"Thanks," the listener, a young woman, replied. "One of my professors at the U of A was just talking about that very thing today, but it was a medieval example during the Crusades."

The DJ frowned, guessing at whose student the caller was. "Go on. Please share the lesson with us."

"Well, Dr. Dubois mentioned an instance where the Crusaders went to Byzantium to help the emperor regain his throne," she continued, fumbling with her notes. "Anyhow, from what I understood, they weren't paid well enough, so they sacked the city, and ruled it themselves for 60 years."

"Yes, the so-called Fourth Crusade," LaCroix chuckled. For all of his faults, Dubois certainly could tie historical examples into current issues. Continuing, he complemented, "That is a very apt example indeed. I should speak with him about it if the opportunity presents itself. Thank you for the call."

" 'Speak with him when the opportunity presents itself'?" a female voice mocked within his head. "Really, Lucius, you do need some originality with your lines."

The Elder looked about anxiously. "Nonsense," he told himself. "Purely trite rubbish." The voice had been Divia's, but she was stuck in Dahak's realm.

"Whatever," he muttered, taking a nervous gulp of blood and continuing on with the show.


A few hours later, the former general descended the staircase at the front of the El Gato Negro, trying to seem more secure than he really felt. Despite appearances, the other immortals gave him a wide berth, knowing that anything dire enough to bother him could be fatal to them all.

Janette, however, stood her ground. In her previous vampiric incarnation, she had experienced these moods and knew it was best to allow him the illusion of security. "Care for a drink?" she asked, placing a goblet on the counter.

"Oui," LaCroix agreed, still glancing around. Whatever was playing with him still remained just on the edge of his senses. "Janette, tell the others to leave."

"What?" she argued. "LaCroix, this isn't the Raven, and you are no longer my master! You cannot!"

"DO IT!" he snarled, vamping out. "We're all in danger!" Then, as the front door swung open, he felt the vibrations once again. Turning, he probed the area around him, feeling the tell-tale vibrations. A quick look toward the entrance verified that his worst nightmare had returned. "Divia?"

"Yes, Father," the blonde girl snickered darkly. "I'm back."

"Who?" Janette asked.

"It's a very long story," Divia chuckled, zipping to the bar. Once there, she reclined against it, staring into her protÈgÈ's eyes. "Would you care to tell her, Father, or shall I?"

"Leave her out of this," he demanded. "I'm your target."

"Yes and no," she snickered, grabbing his wrist in a vise like grip. "I will kill you, Lucius, but before I do, I have a bit of work yet." Smiling ferally, she wrenched her victim's wrist behind his back, and asked Janette, "You smell of Nicholas. Are you his?"

"What is it to you?" the lady of the night argued, feeling under the counter for the alarm button. Finding it, she pressed down hard on it. Whoever this brat was, she meant trouble.

In the space of an instant, Divia had flung her former father across the length of the room and grasped the bartender by the throat. "Yes, I'm trouble all right. Did you ever wonder who had brought him across?" Seeing the other's eyes bulge in surprise, the Pompeian continued, "I'm his mistress who he betrayed!"

"You...are a rotten little...girl," the general gasped, struggling to stand.

"You made me in your image after all," she chuckled, tightening the grip around Janette. If her victim were Nicholas' protÈgÈ, then he would be here soon.


Meantime, Nick, Schanke, and Tracy sat at their desks, going over reports. As usual, Ramirez's nerves had them all on edge, urging them to get their paperwork finished.

"Cripe, I wonder what else can happen," Schanke groused. "First, Myra has her problems and now this!"

At that moment, Nick's cell phone went off. Looking at the display, he saw that it was from the bar. "Great."

"What's up?" Tracy asked.

"There's trouble at the Gato," the vampire detective explained. "Stay here." Jogging out the door, he rounded the corner of the precinct. Once in the alley, he took off for the bar.


Meanwhile, Dave and Angie were driving back from the Tucson Mall after a nice night of shopping and dining. They had spent more than they could afford, but after everything, they felt a splurge was in order.

"That dinner was great, Dave," she sighed, rubbing her stomach.

"Glad you liked it," he chuckled, turning left onto 14th Street. For some reason, he felt compelled to take the "scenic route."

The oncologist noted this occurrence as well, but made little of it. "Going towards the El Gato Negro, are we? Honey, remember the last time we stepped into a vampire bar?"

"I figured we'd drive by it," he said, stopping in front of the tavern. But, at that moment, he gripped the wheel hard. "Grrr," he growled.

Recognizing the signs, she rubbed his shoulder in an attempt to calm him. "What is it?"

"Trouble," he slurred, a smile spreading across his face.

[From within her head, Xena advised, "I'd say he's right."]

"Duck into the alley and do your thing. If my intuition's right, we've found trouble," he urged, pulling aside a blanket and grabbing his quiver and bow. "We're goin' on Brat Patrol."

"Right," she agreed, guessing at his meaning. Once she had rounded the corner of the building, she pulled the sword, changing into the Warrior Princess. "David?" she called.

"C'mon! I'm waitin' on ya!" he declared, clearly struggling to maintain control. "We've got a certain Roman kid to crush." Looking up to the sky, he saw Nick descend toward them. "She send you an invite too?"

The detective nodded. "I can feel her both directly and through my links to LaCroix and Janette."

"And there's a score to settle," Dave growled, rubbing his knee for dramatic effect. "Let's go." Focusing, he pushed the doors open telekinetically, allowing them to enter. Leading the way, the professor felt his surroundings. He felt plenty of icy spots around him, but there was one in particular which grabbed his attention. "Divia! Come out, Bitch!"

From the bar area, she called, "I'm here, Mortal!" After he had found her, she tightened her grip on Janette's arm, challenging, "Why don't you come closer?"

"You think I'm afraid of you?" he snickered. "Besides, I brought help as well."

At that moment, the familiar whirring noise filled the bar, caroming off of items and overhangs, blurring over the scene before flying back out the door.

"Xena," Divia hissed, a fang filled grin spreading across her face. "Dahak will reward me well!"

"Don't count your chickens before they're hatched," he asserted, firing a special shaft. Upon impact with the bar, the garlic cloud rose, aggravating her and her prisoner. "That's something to jar your memory," he chuckled.

Divia growled discontentedly. Despite the fact that she wanted to inflict serious mental duress on both Nick and her father by hurting Janette, she owed Dubois for their previous encounters. "Fine!" she stated, releasing her grip and watching the other vampiress fly away. "Now, I'll take you."

From the corner, LaCroix staggered to his feet, asserting, "Dubois, this is my fight, not yours."

"As if you can take her," Xena doubted, rubbing salt in the wound. "Come with me and Nicholas."

The Roman general snarled his displeasure at her statement, but couldn't debate it.

"You too, Janette," Nick added, pulling her out of the bar.

With everyone clear, Dave focused on the threat levitating above the bar area. He knew the Child wanted his shot at the other Abused Twin, but not yet. Not after the knee rehab. Channeling his energies, he peppered the air with mini blasts, irritating the blonde berserker. "That's something new I worked out at summer camp. And here's the kicker," he announced, firing a big blast which caught her square, stunning her.

The vampiress stood; her eyes, a pair of ruby red pools and her fangs descended. She had forgotten how this mortal could cause pain. But, at that moment, she heard something like a throat being cleared just before cold steel sliced through her neck, decapitating her.

"Nighty, night," Xena growled, frowning at the corpse as it vanished into smoke. "Make sure to give our regards to Dahak." Looking around, she asked, "Is everyone all right?"

The assembled vampires glanced at each other. The intruder had injured some, but they would heal. Yet, they hated the thought of owing their continued existences to Dubois and the warrior.

"That was too easy," Dave noted, helping Janette back through the doorway.

"When you double up and have talent not to mention brains," Xena agreed, allowing a smug grin in LaCroix's direction. "You can get out of these messes."

The Elder grit his teeth, displeased at the outcome. "You...have my thanks," he forced himself to say.

"Don't mention it," Dave replied. Quick looks from Nick and Xena cut off further responses as Tracy and Schanke rushed in. "Hey, guys, you missed all of the fun."

"So what happened?" the blonde detective asked.

"Divia," Nick told her. "She's gone."

"Yeah, well we thought so before as well," Schanke told his partners.

"Dahak pulled her back to him," the Warrior Princess disagreed. "She'll be back."

"Well," Tracy concluded. "All's well that ends well. Come on, Nick. Ramirez'll want a report." With that the three detectives departed, Nick sending a final glance in Janette's direction as he left.

Janette offered, "Would you both like a drink in appreciation? Nicolas says that you do take one every once in a while."

"I'll take a Bass Ale please," Dave requested.

"You wouldn't have any strong red wine, would you?" Xena added.

The bartender gladly served them. After she had done so, the medievalist raised his glass and toasted, "To the Community. May you accept that we are your friends."

"I'll second that," his companion stated, before glaring at LaCroix. "In most cases."

Slowly, the collected immortals joined their new friends in the toast.

Despite the good feelings in the room, Dave stared out the door at the evening sky. For some reason, he still felt as if the threat here was a diversion. The real issue loomed out there, waiting to rear its ugly head in some form or another.

Chapter 7

[Dahak's realm]

As the battle ended in the club, Dahak nodded with satisfaction. While he had hoped Divia could have caused more damage, her distraction had bought some time for his forces to reach the world above. Glancing at his colleagues, a toothy grin spread across his features. "Soon," he promised.

["My forces are on their way," the Spirit advised.]

["Very well," the one in charge agreed.] Then, he noticed his agent approach slowly. "Divia, well done."

"Well done? But I failed you," she wondered curiously.

"A minor setback. But, you forced Dubois and Xena to intervene in Lucius's territory, thereby increasing the latter's ill will, and further splintering any potential alliance. I do wish you had eliminated your protÈgÈ, his son, and the others, but that will happen in good time. Now, go rest and heal. I will need you soon."

"Very well," the blonde girl agreed, bowing as she backed away.

Dahak looked at his allies and widened his smile a bit more. It wouldn't be long now.


[Space, between Jupiter and Saturn]

In the midst of the inky darkness of space, the glowing portal opened, allowing the Magog fleet to streak into the solar system and make a direct line for Earth. At light speed, the small armada crossed the expanse in a few minutes, entering the Earth's atmosphere soon after.


Two minutes later, the Andromeda Ascendant pierced the fading portal in pursuit.

On the command deck, Dylan surveyed his crew. The ride through slipstream had been unusually rough as unexplainable energies had buffeted them the whole way. Now, back in normal space, he turned to the ship's robotic avatar, requesting, "Rommie, where are we?"

For a full minute, Rommie surveyed her charts and silently conversed with the ship's master AI. "Impossible," she muttered. "My reading indicates where we are, but the star alignments are all wrong."

"Bring in on screen," Beka advised. "Let's see it for ourselves."

Meeting the request, the ship's main screen flashed on, presenting an image of the space in front of them. "That looks like Jupiter and Saturn in front of us. We're in the Milky Way galaxy, in the Sol system."

Trance noted to herself, "We've come back in time. That's why the formations are off."

Harper's eyes bulged as he came to a realization. "Rommie, can you chart the Magog's progress?"

"Certainly," the robot agreed, pressing a few more buttons and projecting a schematic of the invaders' route, leaving little doubt about their destination.

"Aw crap!" the engineer exclaimed. "They're heading for Earth! It wasn't bad enough those creeps wrecked things before. Now, they'll wipe out my planet all together!" Turning to the captain, he stated, "We gotta stop them!"

Dylan's brow furrowed. On the one hand, they shouldn't go in alone against a whole fleet of swarm ships. On the other hand, this was Earth. Bad enough that Harper bore the scars from previous encounters with the furry berserkers. But this wasn't a decision he could make for the others.

Rev stepped forward, suggesting, "Is it not a bigger sin not to act and allow one's home to be ransacked than to die in defense of it?"

The engineer gripped the rail beside him tightly. As his stress grew, he could feel the larvae within him start to move. "Hey, shut up in there!" he ordered. "Bad enough we have to deal with your full grown counterparts out there!"

Tyr nodded, a smile forming across his face. Since their odyssey aboard this ship had started, he had regarded the little man as weak and cowardly. Now, in this dire moment, the engineer showed some backbone. As such, the Nietzschean refused to let the opportunity pass unrewarded. "I say we attack as well."

"If we let things go now, it'll affect the future," Trance added.

Beka grit her teeth, looking at her companions. It was up to her now. While chasing down a pack of Magog wasn't her idea of a good time, Earth was still Harper's home. That, combined with Trance's last comments, suggested that this instance would play a role in their future. "What the Hell," she relented. "We have a job to do, right?"

Dylan sighed deeply. Whatever else they did, this group certainly knew how to hang together. "All ahead full, Andromeda. We have a mess to deal with."

From the air, the AI's voice agreed, "Aye."


[Amazon Village]

After hours of struggling with her own feelings, Gabrielle had finally drifted off to sleep. While nothing had happened since the duel to merit attention, she still felt uneasy. Finally, her body told her enough was enough, collapsing onto her hammock with the grace of a sack full of potatoes. Within minutes, she was snoring away.

The new noise stirred Xena from her respite across the room. "By the gods," she groused to herself. "She may be queen, but she still snores like the old Gabrielle." Rubbing her head, the warrior-counselor stood and walked outside. As with her friend, she was troubled as well, but she knew why she felt that way. Hours before, Angela had called on her to help David and the vampires against Divia. "Dahak has finally returned," she mused, knowing full well that the prophecy was coming true despite the professor's efforts to reroute history. "They need to know."

Then, Eve came running down the path along with Nai-Jin, the mystic. The two women nearly fell over with exhaustion.

"Mother," the princess huffed. "There have...been more...visions. Nai...Jin..."

"Is the queen available?" Nai-Jin asked. "Begging your pardon, Xena, but we must convene the council."

The Warrior Princess's eyebrow arched and she frowned. "This is about Dahak and Divia, isn't it?"

"That's right. The battle will happen soon between you, the dark haired one, and the child-vampire," the mystic noted.

"It already did," Xena countered. "Angela brought me into the mess last night. Divia's been taken care of, and Lucius owes us another favor." A slight smirk pulled at the sides of her mouth.

Eve shot her a glare. Despite their current situation, the elder vampire and his daughter were still family to her.

"Relax, Eve. Nothing happened to him except for his ego. We pulled him out of there before anything went down, and Dahak pulled Divia back to him again," the councilor explained.

"There's more," Nai-Jin advised. "An invasion is under way. Your friends must be warned."

Xena scrunched her brow, asking, "Invasion? What? Are you sure?"

"I saw fire and fury falling from the stars," the mystic continued fearfully. "A response to a light from the mountain."

"Light from...?" the warrior asked.

"Mother, the message that was sent into space. Remember?" Eve reminded her. "What if somebody answered it?"

"Yeah, but as an invitation to be conquered," Xena hissed, turning back toward the hut. "Does Cybelle know about this yet?" Not hearing any response, she continued, "I'm gonna tell Gabrielle so we can get a message to David and Angela."

"Get a message? How?" Nai-Jin probed.

"Trust me. They have a direct link," Eve replied, heading into the shelter behind the Thracian warrior.

Inside, Xena stirred her companion from dreamland. "Hey, up and at 'em, Gabrielle. We've got a situation on our hands."

"Uhh...what's it now? Can't Varia do it?" she murmured sleepily.

"Not when it involves Angela and Francesca," the warrior asserted, rubbing the other's arm.

Hearing those two names, the Bard's eyes snapped open. "Xena, what's going on? What's wrong?"

"The prophecy's under way, my Queen," Nai-Jin informed her, bowing at the waist.

"But nothing's happened yet! If...I..." Gabrielle protested before glancing at Xena. The other's expression tipped her off that something was up. "Nai-Jin, can you round up the other councilors? Eve, you can stay." When the mystic had departed, the Bard's eyes blazed blue fury as she exclaimed, "What happened last night, Xena? I should have known when David and Angela got back late."

Xena looked at Eve for help. The latter shook her head, telling the other, "Sorry, Mother. This one's yours."

"There was a spat at Lucius's bar last night. Divia showed up, looking for trouble. David and I took care of things. Hey, it was on the way home for us," the warrior explained.

"On the way home?" the Queen supposed, folding her arms over her chest. "And I gather you had a few rounds too while you were at it?"

"And what were we supposed to do? David and Angela were in the area. She called on me at the last minute. Maybe we could've called Francesca, waited for Deirdre to show up, and had her teleport you there. And Janette gave us one drink apiece in gratitude for doing a good job."

Gabrielle snickered, " 'A good job'? And what about Lucius?"

"Oh, he's okay other than his pride that is," Xena pointed out. "Hey, we kept the peace and...showed him who's boss."

The former Messenger shook her head, knowing that a few more such demonstrations might spark another confrontation. "Shouldn't we call the council?" Looking in the corner, she saw the mists collecting, allowing Deirdre to enter the area.

"So you know already?" the priestess asked, gaining her bearings. "Althanor's already preparing. Aunt Cybelle wanted to know when your council was going to meet and if she could attend."

The Amazon queen nodded, "We will meet within the hour. Meantime, can you stand with your parents?"

"They're being watched even as we speak. With your indulgence, Gabrielle, I'll go to them," Deirdre stated.

"Go tell your aunt about our meeting. Then, we'll see you in Arizona," Gabrielle agreed. After watching the girl disappear the way she had come, the queen asked, "Ready, Xena?" A determined smile had formed on her face, letting the other know that all was well once again.

"Right," Xena concurred, sitting on the floor across from her Potadeian companion. Holding hands, the two concentrated, allowing their collective consciousness to flow forth, seeking their "roommates".



Dave sat in his study anxiously trying to read an article. For some reason, he couldn't sleep. "Get a grip, pal," he told himself. Getting up from his chair, he wandered from room to room, checking on the others. The twins slept uneasily, but at least they were sleeping. Hearing the coffee maker start up, he wandered into the kitchen.

Hearing him approach, Angie turned from the conversation she was having with Francesca. "Oh, Honey," she sighed. "You looked so intent on your work, I didn't want to disturb you."

"You know I'm never too busy for you, Princess," he replied, kissing her cheek. "What's up, Ladies?"

"You don't feel it?" his wife wondered.

"You mean like trouble's around the corner?" he supposed. Nodding, he added, "Yeah, his Darkness has been doing back flips inside of my head. I just hate to see you so nervous is all."

"There's a reason for that feeling, David," Xena's voice announced from thin air as she and Gabrielle appeared in front of the couple. The two phantasms looked at them earnestly.

"We took care of things tonight," he argued. "Didn't we?"

"Apparently not," Gabrielle replied, eyeing both him and Xena. "According to our village mystic, more trouble is coming your way."

"From above," Xena added. "Angela, I want you to get ready. Before the night's through, we'll be facing another crisis. Deirdre will take the twins to Althanor for their safety."

The oncologist looked skeptically at her husband. "I knew the peace and quiet couldn't last."

"That'll take care of my withdrawal symptoms," he chuckled before setting his most earnest expression on his face. Then, he clenched his teeth, growling, "Arrghh...They're here."

The others glanced around. All was still quiet.

Rushing outside, he surveyed the late summer sky, seeing several shooting stars streaking toward the desert west of town. "Break out the heavy gear, Ladies. We got uninvited guests." Allowing himself to slip, he growled, "Ah hate them folks! Ah'm goin' to get Steve an' Natalie." With that, he sprinted off across the complex.

After passing him halfway, Eve rushed to her friends' side. "You know, don't you?"

"Yes," Angie replied grimly. "Eve, can you get the twins up? Francesca and I are going to do our thing. "

"By all means," Deirdre exclaimed, coming out of the fog in back of the group. "Where's Papa?"

"He's getting Steve and Natalie up. More than likely, he's letting Nick know as well," her mother guessed. Feeling through their link, she nodded, "He's just told them and he's on his way back. Let's get back inside."

Racing back into the apartment, the group shut the door and secured the windows. A minute later, Dave and Steve had joined them. With everything secure, Angie and Francesca "did their thing", allowing the two warriors to take their place.

Dave inventoried his shafts carefully. Fortunately, he still had the incendiary stuff not to mention the other special materials, which he had mixed before their last incursion. "I'm set here," he told them, putting the quiver on his back and testing the bow's strength.

Hearing a buzzing, the agent answered his cell phone. After a brief conversation consisting of several "uh huhs," he hung up and told the others, "Nick'll be waiting for us on the Ajo Road in ten minutes. Let's go."

"Eve, go with the others," Xena directed.

"Mother!" the Amazon heiress protested. "No, this is my home too!"

"And you are my heir!" Gabrielle argued. Yet, seeing the other's resolve, she did a U-Turn mentally as she realized, "Sorry, I can't tell you what to do, Eve. Just be careful."

The former Messenger nodded silently as Deirdre came back into the room with her sisters in tow. "Be right back," the latter indicated, disappearing into the mist.

Across the room, the medievalist struggled with his emotions. Whatever it was, the hate radiated from the visitors in strong waves, making it impossible for him and his Dark Twin to resist. "Are...we...ready yet?" he snarled low.

Coming back out of the fog portal, his daughter shook fearfully for a second before replying, "Let's go, Papa. Right this way."

"Now we're talkin'," he agreed darkly, leaping into the mists. The others followed after him, dealing with their own uncertainties about what lay ahead.

Chapter 8

After receiving the call from Natalie and Steve, Nick had zipped westward from his apartment at top-flight speed, heading for the designated meeting spot. As with his friends, he too had felt the thick pallor of evil descending upon them all and had spied the streaking objects across the sky. A minute later, he landed at the 10-mile marker outside of town, glancing around at his surroundings to make sure that he wasn't seen by anyone.

The desert night seemed calm and cool, a light breeze blowing through the remainder of the day's heat. Yet, nobody was there. "This is the spot," he told himself. Then, he saw the mists form in front of him and watched as his companions spilled forth from it.

"Sorry we're late," Dave apologized.

"No problem. I just got here myself," the detective indicated. "Did you see those things in the sky?"

"We did," Xena verified, stepping forward. "From the trajectory, I'd say they're close by."

Eve stated, "Umm, everyone, I think a bit of caution might be in order here. There were several of those fiery streaks. Judging from the evil emanating from them, I'd say whoever or whatever they are, it means trouble for us." Saying that, she began to rub her temples. "Sorry, I have a bit of a headache."

"Are you all right?" Xena inquired.

"I'm fine, Mother. Really," the Amazon heiress explained. "Deirdre, can you pop us over there for a closer look?"

The priestess nodded, "Absolutely." Summoning the cloud portal, she whisked them away.

Dave glanced at Nick, noting something strange about the former Messenger's aura. Granted, with all of the static present from whatever it was, such readings were difficult. Yet, he could swear he felt a second presence in there, fighting with her. "Livia," he muttered. "Great, that's all we need right now." A slight snarl escaped his lips at the end.

"What is it?" Nick pushed.

"Nothing," the professor fibbed, jumping through the portal. If they survived this confrontation, the situation would be dealt with at that point, but first things first.

The vampire detective stepped through as Deirdre sealed things up behind them.


[Space, Just on the dark side of the moon]

The Andromeda rapidly approached the Earth. At its current rate, the vessel would enter Earth's atmosphere in 10 more minutes. Despite the speed, however, nobody felt good about that fact.

"Status report, Andromeda!" Dylan ordered, looking at the displays.

The ship's intelligence appeared on the large screen, reporting, "The Magog have landed, Dylan. From the historical maps I've pulled up from Old Earth, they're in the Southwestern United States of America. Sensors are also reading weird sources of energy and life forms which are appearing and disappearing nearby."

"Mr. Harper, do you remember any of your history lessons?" the captain requested. "If so, what do you know about that place?"

Harper glanced at the screen and the map, which Andromeda had provided. "It looks like Tucson, Arizona, Dylan. We had a resistance camp near there. Rommie, what year is it? Have you figured it out yet?"

"According to my best estimates, I'd say it's Old Earth year 2000 CE. Why?" the robot replied.

The engineer winced, complaining, "Crap. That's what I figured."

Beka urged, "Harper, what is it?"

Harper gulped. "Well, if that's Tucson and it's about the year 2000 or so, then that means there are other things down there too."

Tyr jumped in. "Such as? I suppose you're going to tell us stories about vampires or some such ancient Earth nonsense? This is serious, Boy!"

"They were real!" Harper shot back. "And better yet, there are a couple of powerful mutant guys down there too...including one with a very mean streak. Geez, I hope I'm wrong."

The Nietzschean snickered, "Vampires and mutants? Ha! Come, we've got Magog to kill. I'll see you at the armory." With that, he left Command.

"Trance, can you and Rev stay up here and help Andromeda with the ship?" Dylan requested. Seeing them nod, he continued, "Good, Rommie, Beka, Tyr, and Harper will accompany me down to the surface in the Marrou."

The purple health sciences officer's eyes glazed over for a second. When she had snapped out of it, she detailed, "Dylan, please be careful down there. I don't know why, but Harper's right. Something else besides the Magog is down there. I can feel the anger surging from that point that Rommie indicated earlier."

Dylan scrunched his brow as the foursome left the area. "Bad enough to run into Magog with guns," he mused. "Nasty mutants and vampires would really suck."


[The desert]

For almost twenty minutes, the swarm ships had been dormant on the desert floor. At that point, the doors opened, allowing about two hundred and fifty of the furry brown invaders to spill forth, sniffing the air about them. According to their sensors, the major human population center lay about four Earth miles away. The lights just on the horizon verified this. The meat would never know what hit them.

Meanwhile, Dave and the others crouched on an outcropping above the ship, concealed by Deirdre's fog. The situation definitely looked bad.

"What're the odds?" Xena asked.

"They outnumber us forty five to one," Dave snarled. "Whatever they are, this isn't going to be easy." Surveying the area, he noted the ships. "Hey, do those look like UFOs to you?"

When the three women from Antiquity stared at him in confusion, he elaborated, "Spaceships."

"If you're into science fiction," Nick gathered, following his friend's meaning. "I take it you want to go after them?"

"We'll blow them to Hell and back," the professor determined. "Hopefully, we can buy some time for Steve and the others."

"How do you know they don't come in peace?" Eve interjected, despite knowing about the prophecy.

"You heard Nai-Jin," Gabrielle disagreed.

"Besides, this can't be all of 'em. They have to have some buddies somewhere," her warrior companion chimed in, drawing her sword.

Eve dropped back a step and sat down. The pounding in her head was getting worse. "I...I think I'll stay here. Sorry."

"I'll take you to Althanor. You don't look so good," Deirdre noted, waving her hand and revealing another passage within the portal. "Be right back."

The Warrior Princess shook her head with worry, hoping her daughter was okay. "Better that she's not here anyhow," she thought protectively.

Within a minute, the priestess had returned. "Eve's resting and Aunt Cybelle's waiting for the word from us. Papa, what do you think?"

Dave exhaled deeply and said, "Let the cover dissipate. Let's see what they do. Just be ready to get us an escape route."

His daughter nodded nervously and complied.

As the fog lifted, the invaders howled below. Their ship's laser cannons tracked them and fired a blast, missing them narrowly as it scored the stone just behind them.

"That's our cue," Dave grinned, stringing an arrow and lighting it. "Here we go. Ready?"

The others nodded silently.

"For Earth!" the professor yelled, firing the lit arrow into the creatures' midst below. Serving up volley after volley, he saw the incendiaries hit their targets, engulfing several Magog in flame. "Aliens flambÈ," he remarked.

"My turn," Xena declared, flinging her chakram into the fray. The circular weapon whizzed through the enemy ranks, ricocheting off of several heads, fatally wounding still more in addition to striking the back of one ship before returning to her hand.

"Good work," Dave complemented. Looking at Nick, he produced what looked like two aerosol cans, asking, "Can you fly over them and drop these surprises?"

The vampire nodded, reluctantly taking the devices. "On them or their craft?"

"Them," the professor agreed quickly, urging him onward.

With that, Nick took off over the developing scene below. As the lasers beneath him fired dangerously close, he had to maneuver carefully. Spotting the aliens beside the ship, which Xena had damaged earlier, he dropped both bombs on the mass of the invaders below. Like Eve, he hated to take life. However, as a Crusader, his mortal training took over, recalling the time spent in a Muslim prison and his time spent in the Levant. "For the defense of our home," he told himself, trying to justify his actions as he streaked away. Seeing Deirdre's new protective cloud, he whisked inside of it.

As he did so, twin explosions rocked the landscape, momentarily deafening all of the party and taking one hundred and fifty of their adversaries in one great burst of light.

Dave ground his teeth fearfully. Nuclear fallout was definitely not what he had in mind, especially this close to Tucson. Still, no mushroom cloud or anything similar appeared after several minutes much to his relief. However, stretching out with his senses, he discerned that some invaders had survived the blast and headed toward their position. "Damn!" he hissed.

"There are more of 'em, aren't there?" Xena guessed. Then, she spied their slightly singed adversaries coming up the trail behind them. "Don't look now!"

"Hairballs on a bad day," the medievalist growled, readying another shaft and firing into the advancing horde. This new force rapidly surrounded the quintet.

"Deirdre, go!" Dave ordered. "Get reinforcements!"

"Papa! I won't leave you!" she argued.

Xena glared at her. "Your mother agrees. Get going and bring help!"

The Althanorian heiress said reluctantly. "I'll be right back." With that, she vanished into the mists.

As the Magog moved in, they were determined to avenge their comrades by killing the humans. That purpose set in their minds, their hate spilled out over their intended victims in waves. One managed to scratch the professor, drawing blood.

Already fighting with himself over this psychic intimidation, Dave stumbled backward. Two of the invaders advanced on him, intending on making him a host for their eggs. "Awright quit it!" he growled. When another swipe cut into his leg, he screamed in pain, allowing his personas to swap places. With a powerful burst, the aliens lost their grip, impacting on the stone cliff face behind them.

"Ah told ya, no means no!" the Child roared. Reaching out through the advancing host, he felt the dark energy coming from beyond. "Assholes," he spat, firing off psychic blasts. "Ya'll are feedin' me! Get while the gettin's good!"

For their parts, Xena and the others held their own against the army, dispatching them with cold efficiency with sword, chakram, javelin, and superhuman blows from above. Despite their smaller numbers, the group forced the Magog back down the mountain and toward the remaining ships.

This counterattack stunned the Magog. No human force had ever attacked them planetside in this fashion before. In addition, the dark haired one's rage made it difficult to focus on the Spirit's mission. The attackers retreated back to their ships, taking off to rendezvous nearby and rethink their strategy.

Chapter 9

While the activity went on west of town, Tracy sat at her desk in the bullpen, twirling her pencil moodily. Once again, her oh-so-reliable partner, Nick, took off to deal with a problem with no calls or any word, leaving everyone to wonder where he went. In addition, their combined paperwork sat in a great stack on her desk, beckoning to be done.

Schanke plopped himself down in his chair adjacent to her, wondering, "Any word from him yet?"


"Man-o-man, I thought he was over this," Schanke groused, gulping from a Styrofoam cup of lukewarm coffee. "I just took a trip over to the museum. Alyce didn't know anything either, but wanted to know when we did discover something."

"Surprise. Surprise," she mumbled sarcastically. "I don't suppose that anyone bothered to try the Duboises yet?"

"I did. No answer at their offices or at home. Too bad," he noted.

"Yeah. This time, I'm sure they're in the middle of the disappearing act," she theorized. Then, hearing the front doors to the precinct bang open, she turned to see Officer Jerry Bennett stumble into the bullpen, looking absolutely bewildered.

The officer hurried up to Chris Novak's desk where he nearly collapsed either from fright, exhaustion, or some combination of the two. Everyone in the vicinity except for the two detectives huddled around him.

"Officer Bennett? What is it?" the desk sergeant asked.

Bennett huffed, trying to get his breath. "I...I've never seen anything like it. A big flash in the sky west ...of town...."

"And an accompanying boom of some kind?" Ramirez asked, approaching his subordinate. Seeing the other man nod an affirmative, he continued, "It's been all over the police band, Amigos. Has everyone been accounted for, Sergeant?"

"Only Detective Miles is unaccounted for," she replied, glancing over at his partners.

"Any word?" the captain pushed. Taking their lack of response as a negative one, his face turned a fiery shade of crimson. "When you do, I want to know about it!" With that, he marched back into his office, slamming the door behind him.

Tracy winced, glancing at Schanke nervously. They needed to find Nick, and they needed to do so now. Grabbing her coat, she started to move away from her desk. However, a familiar figure slipped unnoticed through the door, across the room, and downstairs toward the exam rooms.

"C'mon, Schanke," she urged, heading for the stairs as well.

"But, we need to get out on the streets to look for Nick!" the souvlaki-loving detective protested.

Motioning with her eyes toward the stairs, she mouthed 'LaCroix' before taking off.

Suddenly understanding her, he rushed closely behind.


Natalie examined her latest homicide case carefully, hoping to find some half digested pills lying in the cadaver's stomach. From the blood work, she'd discovered that a lethal Phenobarbital dose had killed this victim. Maybe if she found something, she could stop worrying about Nick and the others for a while.

Sitting on a stool, Steve completed a conversation with his boss on his cell phone, disconnecting and putting the device back in his pocket. For about the past 15 minutes, weird reports had been coming into the downtown office about the lights and loud explosions west of town. Seeing as that was the general vicinity that his friends headed in, he figured that they had something to do it.

"So what's going on?" she asked him.

"Hmm?" he wondered, turning his attention to her.

"With the phone. That sounded like a pretty heated discussion with Bennett," she presumed.

"Yeah," he agreed. "It was. The office has received reports of weird lights and explosions west of town."

"Oh," Natalie realized. "I hope the others weren't too close."

"Knowing Dave," he assumed. "He was pretty close to ground zero. I'd bet he had a role in setting it off."

"Get out of here!" she scoffed. "Why would he do that?"

"If they were in serious trouble and there was no other way, yeah, Dave would do it. I remember one time when we were working together. The people we were chasing trapped him in this area and flooded it. Rather than drown, he plastered a big chunk of that stuff of his against the wall, lit it, and blew himself an escape route," he recalled. "Of course, the idiot burned himself badly and his ears rang for nearly a week after that, but we got the job done."

Her eyes bugged out in horror.

The agent shrugged, saying, "All in a day's work for him."

A voice from the doorway snickered, "I knew Dubois was a sadist, but never imagined he would do something like that."

Turning, the duo found LaCroix standing there, a big grin across his face.

"Do you enjoy eavesdropping?" she asked, trying to ignore the Elder.

"I do not eavesdrop, Doctor," the vampire informed her indignantly. "I merely acquire information wherever it is available. Speaking of which, I was wondering if you could tell me where Nicholas was. I've been getting the most interesting feelings through our link."

"Sorry," Steve stated, eyeing the vampire carefully. "I don't have any idea."

"I assume he's with...your hardheaded friend?" LaCroix baited.

"I'd say you're getting warmer," the agent continued cryptically. "But as to where that is, your guess is as good as mine."

"We'd like to know as well," Tracy interjected as she and Schanke entered the area.

"Detective Brown, good evening," the Roman greeted. "So, you have no idea either. Hmm, interesting."

"We've been hunting for him ourselves," Schanke informed him. "But when Tracy saw you, we figured you could tell us."

"Normally, that would be a logical assumption," the General admitted. "Still, with all of the intense hatred seething in the air, I can't tell."

Natalie glanced at him skeptically.

"No, Nat," Steve countered. "Dave was complaining about that earlier tonight. He was having a hard time maintaining control. What did you mean, LaCroix, about 'interesting feelings'? "

The immortal arched his brow with amusement. For once, the FBI admitted that it didn't know. "It was beyond his usual fretting about right and wrong. Nicholas was concerned about taking a life and recalling his mortal experiences during the Crusades," he recounted.

"Taking a life?" the coroner asked. "Meaning?"

"Meaning, if I knew, I wouldn't be standing here, now would I?" LaCroix continued, evading the query. He stared to the northwest, grinning, "Well now. Whatever the situation was, it's gone. If you would excuse me, I must be going." With that, he took off, streaking from the room in a flash.

"That was special," Steve sighed, looking at Tracy and Schanke. "I don't suppose that Ramirez told you to find Nick, did he?"

"You know he did," Tracy affirmed, putting her coat on. "And if you're going to look for the Duboises, we're coming with you."

"I don't..." Steve started to say, but Tracy's expression stopped him midway. "Okay, but be prepared for the weird. Let's go. Natalie, I'll be back."

The ME nodded as she watched the trip leave the exam room, heading for the stairs. It had been a long night and it was about to get much longer.

Chapter 10

The Eureka Maru streaked through the atmosphere, its crew hoping to join the battle before it was too late. From previous experience, they knew that the Magog tore into their opponents leaving few, if any, survivors.

"Approach from the south," Dylan indicated.

Beka agreed, veering the craft in that direction. Then, the sensors spotted something. "Dylan! Damn, something big just went off over there!"

"How far?" the captain asked urgently, worrying that time had already run out.

Rommie scanned the readouts over Beka's shoulder. "About nine thousand meters straight ahead. At our current rate and speed, we'll be there shortly."

Putting on as much speed as she dared, the pilot pushed her ship across the desert sky. Reaching an area just west of what appeared to be an ancient Earth city, she saw a group of swarmships streaking back into the night sky.

"I don't believe it," Tyr muttered. "Magog running. What could do that?"

"I think we're about to find out," Dylan declared. "Take it down, Beka. Everyone, let's scout around, but be careful."

Once the Maru had touched down on the sandy plateau, the captain and the others walked out into the desert night.

"Anything, Rommie?" Beka wondered.

The android scanned the vicinity with her internal sensors. For several seconds, her dark eyes didn't pick up on anything. Then, on the ridge to their right, she hit paydirt. "Dylan, there's something on that ridge."

He nodded. Prepared for anything, he readied his force lance and glanced around. "Excuse me!" he called out. "I'm Captain Dylan Hunt of the starship Andromeda Ascendant. We're here on a peaceful endeavor."

For a long moment, a silence hung heavily over the Sonoran desert. Then, a mist began to collect about the group and quickly intensified until it obscured everything around them.

"What is this?" Tyr growled, aiming his laser pistol all around him, his eyes darting from place to place within this sudden cover.

"Relax. It won't hurt you," a female voice replied. Stepping into their view was a young woman of about five feet in height, slender build, clothed in a flowing emerald dress, and painted with some sort of ritualistic symbols on her brow. "My companions and I wish to know your purpose here."

"As I said earlier, we're here for a peaceful purpose. We tracked a fleet of Magog swarmships to this spot and thought you could use some assistance," Dylan replied officially.

Deirdre nodded. She sensed the man's sincerity and knew she could trust him. From the two women, she picked up strange vibrations. And the towering black man, she detected an intense darkness similar to her father's. "Thanks. I think we got rid of them for the moment, but the more allies, the better, right?" Motioning to a spot on her left side, the mists parted a bit, revealing where Dave, Xena, Gabrielle, and Nick stood watching them. "These are my companions. My father, David Dubois, Xena, Warrior Princess and Amazon Councilor, Gabrielle, Amazon queen, and Nick Miles, detective."

"Pleased to meet you all," Dave acknowledged, scanning the newcomers carefully. His senses told him that they were trustworthy.

[From within his head, the Child advised, "Watch the man-mountain. There's something about him."]

The medievalist silently concurred with his inner personality, exchanging glances with the two women warriors. "And you said you were from a ship of some sort?"

"The Andromeda Ascendant," Rommie replied. "A flagship of the Systems Commonwealth."

"Systems what?" Gabrielle asked.

Xena kept a close eye on the others, locking glances with Tyr as well. As with the professor, she didn't trust him either.

For his part, the Nietzschean scoffed, "What are you looking at, Little Man?"

"Excuse me?" Dave coughed, a tremor of anger shooting down his spine. "Who are you calling 'Little'?"

"This is pointless," Xena indicated as she tried to intercede. Staring at the alien, she directed, "Back off! Believe me, I'm really not in the mood to calm him down right now." Drawing her sword, her eyes darkened, burning into the taller man's brain, and letting him know that she wouldn't be messed with.

"Right," he laughed, training his pistol...only to have it ripped out of his grasp, turn in midair, and point itself straight at him.

A sinister snicker arose from the medievalist. "She warned ya. Now, play nice, or ah'll blast ya to Hell." His right eye was now closed and a wide leer had spread itself across his face.

For her part, Rommie detected changes in his metabolic rate, but there was something else. His energy signature was different, darker than just about anything they had met except for the Spirit of the Abyss. Whatever he was now, the Earther certainly had enough power to thrash Tyr.

"Tyr! Stand down now!" Dylan ordered. "I said I don't want any trouble!"

The mercenary nodded grudgingly, growling at the professor. "This isn't finished."

The other man stated darkly, "Whatever. Come near me again, Big Man, and ah'll kick your tail from here to Chattanooga." A dark growl escaped his lip followed by another low throaty chuckle, unnerving everyone around him.

Xena stared at Dylan and Beka, experiencing the most incredible case of deja vu.

"Is something else wrong?" the first officer asked.

"You both remind me of people I know," the warrior told them. For some reason, the captain reminded her of Hercules, but that idea would need to be pursued later.

Nick nodded, surprised how much Beka resembled Tracy.

"I'm sure," the captain replied albeit a bit confused.

"Dylan, I'm sensing a metal conveyance approaching from the east," Rommie announced.

"Damn!" Dylan cursed. "Everyone to the Maru now! You folks can come too if you want."

Xena and Gabrielle glanced at Dave, wondering if they should do so.

The medievalist looked to his new companions. Despite the hulking man's threats against him and the Child, he felt he could trust them. "Let's do it. From what I can tell, our friends are still around if you get my drift." Rubbing his head, he inquired, "Do you have anything for a headache?"

"I think Trance can find something, David," Rommie stated. "Come."

Just as the group was entering the Maru, Tracy's car screeched to a halt beside them. "Hey!" she called, jumping out and running toward them.

Beka winced. "Now what?" Turning, she aimed her lance at the voice only to stop dead in her tracks.

It was an identical twin looking back at her.

For a long second, the two women studied each other, each pointing her weapon at the other and not flinching.

"Trace, stop it!" Nick yelled.

"Nick? Are you in there?" she called.

"Yes, either come on or let us go deal with our problem," her partner said.

The blonde detective didn't know what to think. Still, her curiosity over who this "evil" twin was pushed her forward into the ship.

As soon as she was in, the airlock sealed, and the ship took off.

For their part, Schanke and Steve tried to chase them down, but were left staring skyward, wondering what was going on.

"Geez!" the detective muttered to the agent who was equally flabbergasted. "I wonder how I'm gonna explain this to Ramirez?"

Steve had no answer either. He just stared into space, wondering if his friends were going to make it back.

Chapter 11

Beka piloted the Maru straight up through the Earth's atmosphere and into space. Wherever the Magog went, it was fairly certain they would regroup and return in earnest. Accordingly, they needed to get back to the Andromeda as quickly as possible.

Peering through the front window, Dave asked, "Where are we headed anyway?"

"Our ship," Dylan replied. "We need to take stock of the situation."

" 'Your ship'," Xena repeated. "There's no water near here."

Tyr said almost flippantly, "We haven't needed water to travel in quite sometime, Milady."

Picking up on his cynicism, the Warrior Princess glowered at him. Perhaps he was a great warrior, but he had proven to be a royal pain in the ass to that point. "How much longer?"

"We'll be there in just a few minutes," Beka replied, already beginning the docking preparations. As they approached the moon, she skirted the orbiting chunk of stone and indicated, "Take a look out the front window. That's our ship."

The Earth group stared through the glass at the colossal sight in front of them. The ship in question was at least 5 stories in height and twice that in length and floated in space effortlessly.

"That's the Andromeda Ascendant," Dylan noted.

"Impressive," Dave nodded with a whistle.

Rommie glanced at the professor with wry amusement. "Thank you," she said appreciatively

"For what?" Xena asked.

"For his whistling at me. I'm choosing to take it as a complement," the metallic avatar informed him.

"You?" he asked. Then, focusing on the android, he sensed an energy flow between her and the larger ship, tying them together somehow. "Somehow, you and the ship are one."

"Perceptive," Beka complemented. "It usually takes a while for our guests to figure that one out."

"So is that where we're going?" Tracy asked, albeit a bit nervously.

"Settle down, Lady," her futuristic twin told her. "Nothing's going to happen to any of you." Seeing the rear doors of the bigger ship open, she steered towards the exposed area. Guiding the Marrou into the hanger, she shut down the engines. "And that's all, Folks." Unstrapping herself from the pilot's chair, she headed for the exit.

"This way," Dylan indicated, following his first officer's path.

Nick glanced at Tracy and then his other friends. While they still weren't sure about the captain, they had to trust him. After they followed him out of the ship and into the ship proper, the vampire inquired, "So what now?"

"Rest up, eat, or whatever you want to do to relax. Mr. Dubois, I want you to go with Rommie to sickbay. My medical officer should take a look at those wounds," Dylan mentioned.

"If that's not any trouble to you," Dave replied.

"No trouble at all," Rommie assured him. "Follow me please."

"I'd like to go with him as well," Xena indicated. "Gabrielle, why don't you go with Nicholas and Tracy? I'll let you know if anything happens."

"Right," the bard agreed and followed the others down the hall.

The warrior took a long look as Captain Hunt led the others out of sight. Then, turning, she sprinted down the hall to catch up with Dave and the android. If they were going to do something to him, she wanted to be there for Angela's sake as well as her own.


A few minutes later, Rommie stopped in front of a metal doorway. Pressing a button, the door slid open, revealing another room. "After you," she indicated to the professor and the warrior.

Looking at each other, the two visitors warily followed her directions. Once they entered the room, they saw that the area was filled with computer equipment, blinking lights, and in the center, a rather plain table. At the far end of the room, a woman, or rather, what appeared to be a woman, despite her purple skin and tail, typed away on a keyboard and scanned the readouts next to her.

"Who's she?" Dave asked.

"Ah, that would be Trance, our medical officer," the avatar noted. "She will want to take a look at you."

"Hi there," the purple one greeted. "Good to have you onboard. Is there anything I can do for you?"

"Umm, I was wondering if you might to look at this wound?" the medievalist requested, pointing at his left leg.

"Okie dokie," Trance agreed, patting the table. "Can you get up there for me? Thanks." As with her patient's unease about her, she was also getting strange vibes from him. Recalling Harper's words from the command deck, she thought about who and what her patient was. "Just relax," she forced herself to say as she started the scanning procedure. As the diagnostic proceeded, she saw the disturbing results. The computer picked up on dark energies. Something not so nice lurked just under the surface. Glancing over at her fellow crewmember, she continued treating his injury.


Meanwhile, Dylan, Beka, and Tyr had led the others onto the command deck. For the newcomers, the complex machinery and the view of space through the front window were awe-inspiring.

Harper smiled at them and said, "Howdy, folks, welcome to the Andromeda, badest ship in the known worlds."

Nick took a look around at everything. Despite everything he had seen in his eight centuries of life, nothing had prepared him for this sight. "This is fascinating, Captain."

"Thank you," Dylan smiled, taking his post above the pilot's chair. "Actually, Beka's a great pilot and Andromeda's always keeping an eye out. Aren't you?"

"I try," Andromeda's voice echoed throughout the chamber.

"Who said that?" Tracy wondered nervously.

Gabrielle tensed as well although she wouldn't let on about how nervous she really was.

For her part, Beka shook her head. "She may look like me, but she ain't anything like me. That's for sure," she thought.

At that moment, Andromeda's image appeared in front of the group. "Sorry," she apologized.

"Is this a usual thing?" the bard asked.

"Yes," the captain said. "This version of Andromeda is the artificial intelligence for the ship. In a nutshell, she's the ship."

"So, she's the ship's voice box and brain?" Nick deduced.

"Exactly, Sir Nicolas," the image replied. Seeing her guests' wonderment, she continued, "I scanned my historical database on your civilization to deduce your identity, matched your appearance against those in my files, and made a conclusion." Glancing at Gabrielle, she added, "And you are Gabrielle of Potadeia, a province in northeastern Greece and Amazon High Queen. You are a famous bard, companion to Xena of Amphipolis, the Warrior Princess of Corinth. Your companions downstairs with my avatar are Xena and David Dubois, noted medieval scholar. Correct?"

Gabrielle gasped, "That's right."

"That's our Andromeda," Harper chuckled. "Omniscience is a virtue."

"I'm hardly omniscient, Harper," she retorted matter of factly. "But I do have a great deal of information on all of you. Since our return, I've confirmed my initial readings of you all. "

"So, you're from the future?" Tracy pushed.

Dylan glanced at his crew and seeing their reactions, replied, "Let's just say we're from another star system. Mr. Harper, however, is from Earth as well." A beeping came from his console, which he answered, "Yes, Trance?"

"Dylan, David's been looked at. Should Rommie escort them to command?" the medical officer inquired.

"Yes," he agreed. "I would like to talk with both of them."

"We'll be right there," Rommie chimed in as the connection concluded.

"It seems your friend is going to be all right," Dylan indicated.

"As much as he can be," the mercenary piped in derisively.

"Tyr," Dylan hissed, shooting the Nietzschean a glance.

"Hey, Tyr, no offense, but you might want to lay off of him," the engineer suggested, a slight shudder passing through his thin frame.

"I concur with your engineer," the vampire added. "If you rattle his cage, Dave'll make you sorry for it."

"And I agree with Nicolas," Andromeda contributed. "Based on my records, Professor Dubois has two very distinct personalities. The one we're seeing right now is the dominant adult. However, my sensors and Trance's scans have picked up on a locus of dark energy inside of him. The secondary personality, seemingly an eleven-year-old boy, is a source of anger and resentment. From the record, he can and has released his wraith on those around him."

The visitors nodded, once again amazed at the AI's diagnosis.

"They say children should be seen and not heard," Tyr growled.

Just then, the doors parted, allowing Xena, Dave, and Rommie to enter the command deck. As with their friends, the two newcomers were awestruck with the complexity of this area.

The professor, however, shot the Weapons officer a dirty look indicating, "Captain, one should be careful of how he or she speaks about those around him, don't you agree?"

Despite the volatility of the situation, Dylan managed a smile. Dubois certainly wasn't going to back down from Tyr in any event. "I'd agree."

"Besides, Unter, you might be surprised at how well a mongrel such as myself can handle myself against a pure-bred," the medievalist snarled darkly. Seeing the other's surprise, he pressed further, "Andromeda indicated that you were Nietzschean. Yes, I've read all of Nietzsche's works, mein Freund. As Machiavelli might say, never confront an opponent until you know them. Trust me, Big Man, I've seen my share of Nazis, and while I disagree with the philosophy, I would like to be your friend. But, be advised, I'm not afraid of you."

"I would teach you the error of your ways," Tyr growled and started to advance.

Dave grinned wickedly and focused. Suddenly, the bigger man flew upward and impacted into the ceiling with a great deal of force. "Speaking as a teacher, that's an object lesson. Trust me, you don't want to mess with me. Leave me alone." Releasing his grip, he allowed Tyr to hit the floor.

Seeing the captain's discomfort, he stated, "Sorry, Captain Hunt, but I won't be attacked or insulted. And I was in complete control. He doesn't want to face me if I should lapse."

Glancing at Harper, the angry mercenary asked, "So this is your nasty mutant. Why don't I see any vampires?"

Rommie looked at Nick who was not amused by the larger man's comments. A slight nod from her told him he had the floor.

Stepping across the room, he told the Nietzschean, "That would be me." For added emphasis, he allowed his eyes to turn yellow and his fangs to descend. "And if you cause my friend any grief, you'll have me to deal with as well. Got it?"

Tyr shook his head silently. He didn't enjoy being threatened by anyone especially one smaller than himself. Finally, he said, "You'd best watch your back, monster."

Nick glared at him once again for renewed emphasis. Then, he allowed himself to return to normal

"Is there a place where I might talk with your crewman there?" Xena requested firmly, her eyes narrowing into slits.

"I was about to go for a workout, Milady. Would you care to accompany me?" Tyr invited.

"Fine. I could use the exercise," she agreed.

The Nietzschean smiled and motioned for her to follow him.

"I'll be back," she assured the others. "Gabrielle, why don't you come with me?"

"Don't worry, Dylan. I'll keep an eye on them," the AI assured him.

"Fine," the warrior agreed, heading out through the doors.

"Meantime, is there a place I can meditate?" Dave asked. "I want to calm down a bit. Back on Earth, I always loved plants and gardens."

"If you don't mind, Rommie can take you to see my plant collection," Trance invited.

"Thanks," the professor agreed. "Mr. Harper, want to come along?" Seeing the sheepish look, he added, "I don't bite. At least, when I haven't been provoked."

Harper nodded in agreement, saying, "Okay, meantime, I get to show you why they call me a super genius!" Running into the corridor, he called, "C'mon!"

"Is he always like this?" the professor asked.

"That would be him," Dylan indicated. "Meantime, have a good meditation session."

The professor smiled in gratitude. Exiting through the door, he left the captain, first officer, Nick, Tracy, and AI all wondering what was going to happen next. True, the Magog had retreated, but sooner or later, they would be back and in force.

"They say children should be seen and not heard," Tyr growled.

Just then, the doors parted, allowing Xena, Dave, and Rommie to enter the command deck. As with their friends, the two newcomers were awestruck with the complexity of this area.

The professor, however, shot the Weapons officer a dirty look indicating, "Captain, one should be careful of how he or she speaks about those around him, don't you agree?"

Despite the volatility of the situation, Dylan managed a smile. Dubois certainly wasn't going to back down from Tyr in any event. "I'd agree."

"Besides, Unter, you might be surprised at how well a mongrel such as myself can handle myself against a pure-bred," the medievalist snarled darkly. Seeing the other's surprise, he pressed further, "Andromeda indicated that you were Nietzschean. Yes, I've read all of Nietzsche's works, mein Freund. As Machiavelli might say, never confront an opponent until you know them. Trust me, Big Man, I've seen my share of Nazis, and while I disagree with the philosophy, I would like to be your friend. But, be advised, I'm not afraid of you."

"I would teach you the error of your ways," Tyr growled and started to advance.

Dave grinned wickedly and focused. Suddenly, the bigger man flew upward and impacted into the ceiling with a great deal of force. "Speaking as a teacher, that's an object lesson. Trust me, you don't want to mess with me. Leave me alone." Releasing his grip, he allowed Tyr to hit the floor.

Seeing the captain's discomfort, he stated, "Sorry, Captain Hunt, but I won't be attacked or insulted. And I was in complete control. He doesn't want to face me if I should lapse."

Glancing at Harper, the angry mercenary asked, "So this is your nasty mutant. Why don't I see any vampires?"

Rommie looked at Nick who was not amused by the larger man's comments. A slight nod from her told him he had the floor.

Stepping across the room, he told the Nietzschean, "That would be me." For added emphasis, he allowed his eyes to turn yellow and his fangs to descend. "And if you cause my friend any grief, you'll have me to deal with as well. Got it?"

Tyr shook his head silently. He didn't enjoy being threatened by anyone especially one smaller than himself. Finally, he said, "You'd best watch your back, monster."

Nick glared at him once again for renewed emphasis. Then, he allowed himself to return to normal

"Is there a place where I might talk with your crewman there?" Xena requested firmly, her eyes narrowing into slits.

"I was about to go for a workout, Milady. Would you care to accompany me?" Tyr invited.

"Fine. I could use the exercise," she agreed.

The Nietzschean smiled and motioned for her to follow him.

"I'll be back," she assured the others. "Gabrielle, why don't you come with me?"

"Don't worry, Dylan. I'll keep an eye on them," the AI assured him.

"Fine," the warrior agreed, heading out through the doors.

"Meantime, is there a place I can meditate?" Dave asked. "I want to calm down a bit. Back on Earth, I always loved plants and gardens."

"If you don't mind, Rommie can take you to see my plant collection," Trance invited.

"Thanks," the professor agreed. "Mr. Harper, want to come along?" Seeing the sheepish look, he added, "I don't bite. At least, when I haven't been provoked."

Harper nodded in agreement, saying, "Okay, meantime, I get to show you why they call me a super genius!" Running into the corridor, he called, "C'mon!"

"Is he always like this?" the professor asked.

"That would be him," Dylan indicated. "Meantime, have a good meditation session."

The professor smiled in gratitude. Exiting through the door, he left the captain, first officer, Nick, Tracy, and AI all wondering what was going to happen next. True, the Magog had retreated, but sooner or later, they would be back and in force.

Chapter 12 [Workout area/Gymnasium]

Fifteen minutes after the incident on the Command Deck, Tyr led Xena and Gabrielle into the gym. "Here's where we let off some tension as the need arises to do so," he indicated.

The two female warriors studied the area. Despite the ship's sophistication, they noted that the athletic gear was similar to what they had on Earth, most notably the basketball hoop. However, they didn't come down here to play that game.

The Warrior Princess stared at the mercenary. For some reason, he seemed eager to test his skills against her. "His funeral," she quipped. "So, which weapons will we use?"

"Staffs," he said, picking out two metal poles with padded ends from the wall display and flipping one to her. "We wouldn't want anyone to get hurt now."

She glanced at Gabrielle, shaking her head. Some men could be such chauvinists. "No, we wouldn't," she replied mock-pleasantly, readying the weapon.

He smiled and did likewise.

For several minutes, the two adversaries circled each other, watching the other's moves, and focusing on the slightest flinch.

Tyr lunged first, swiping his staff at her midsection.

She grinned and leapt straight up in the air, easily avoiding the attempt. A back flip later, she landed behind him and swung quickly.

As if he had eyes in the back of his head, the Nietzschean parried and swung behind himself.

Back and forth, this dance went-alternating the advantage between Xena and Tyr. For the better part of two hours, neither could find an opening in the other's defenses.

For his part, Tyr mentally noted the Thracian warrior's abilities. As he had informed Beka sometime ago, human females were beneath his breeding stock. This one and possibly her friend were obvious exceptions to that rule. "Tell me, why do you accompany that man? He's obviously not as good a fighter as you."

"I have my reasons," Xena cracked. "And as for his fighting skills, you'd be surprised at what he can do in a battle."

"I'm sure," he supposed, feinting with his staff yet again and enjoying this experience. It had been quite some time since he had an opponent of this quality to spar with.



Rommie pressed a button on the wall halfway down a metallic hallway, opening the door. "Here we are," she told Dave. "Follow me."

As he walked into the room, the professor admired the scene in front of him. The room held many types of plant life. Many smaller plants were on tables while larger trees shaded spots on the floor beneath them. Other floor spots actually had grass growing on them. "Wow. I'd swear I was back on Earth," he admired.

"I'm sure Trance would appreciate hearing that," she replied pleasantly. "Was this what you had in mind?"

He nodded, indicating, "Yes. Thank you. I wish there could be some music, but this will do nicely...."

"I might be able to arrange something. What is your pleasure?" she asked.

"Either some medieval chant or Celtic chant?" he requested.

The avatar closed her eyes, and started humming to herself. "Let's see...Both are possible. For the former, do you have a particular artist in mind?"

"Hildegard von Bingen. She's a twelfth century abbess and did some powerful chant," he noted.

Rommie smiled and located the woman in question in her database. "Yes..." she concurred and, as the music started, asked, "How's that?"

He took a deep breath, relaxing himself. "Much better. Thank you. Are you sure this is okay with your Medical Officer?"

"Of course," the guide agreed. "She agreed to it. I'll let her know you're in here."

"Thank you," he said, sitting down in a lotus position and closing his eyes. Hearing the robot leave and the door slide shut, he exhaled deeply, allowing the chant to wash over him, sweeping all of his concerns away. For several hours, his consciousness floated on air, moving on the peaks and valleys of the arias.

Then, he felt a presence behind him. "Deirdre?" he asked.

"Yes, Papa. It's me," she said. "Are you all right?"

"I'm a little banged up, but otherwise, I'm hanging in there," he told her.

"Well, I'm sorry that I can't stick around. It seems that we have a crisis of our own in Althanor to deal with," she explained. "I wanted to drop off a bottle of enhanced cow blood for Nick and see how you and Momma were holding up."

"Thanks, Dee-Dee," he stated, kissing her on the cheek. "I'll let your mother know. By the way, what's going on back there?"

The priestess squirmed uncomfortably. Since her transformation, she had been amazed at how much he knew about what troubled her. "Nothing. I'm sure Auntie will let you know when you're finished with this situation."

He stared at her, a slight bit of disapproval creasing his features. Whatever was going on in the hidden realm, he wanted to help. However, she was right. "Okay, I'll accept that for now, but when we all get back, your aunt and I are going to have a chat."

She nodded nervously before saying, "O..Okay, Papa. Good luck." With that, she disappeared through the portal.

Dave shook his head, wondering just what was waiting on deck for them if and when they were finished with the Magog. Deciding not to worry about it until the current situation was dealt with, he settled back into the meditative trance.

About an hour later, he felt another presence in the room. Opening his eyes, he asked, "Who's there?"

"David, it's Trance. I just wanted to see how you were doing." Trance replied, walking through the area, an ear tuned to the music.

"I'm feeling much better. Thanks," he noted. "I hope you don't mind if I had Andromeda improvise a bit."

"I like it actually," she complemented. "It's soothing and peaceful. Does it help you to keep the Other in check?"

"It relaxes us both," Dave nodded, standing up and smiling at the purple woman behind him. "Anything new on our furry friends out there?"

"They're still out there somewhere," she reported. "Actually, if you don't mind, I have another friend I'd like you to meet."

"Okay," he agreed guardedly. "Where?"

"He's out in the hallway. Rev Bem?" she indicated.

"Yes?" the Magog priest replied, entering the area. "Pleased to meet you, David."

The professor hissed, "He's one of them."

The Wayist sighed deeply. "Yes and no. Yes, I am a Magog. No, I am no longer one of them. I travel a different road now. The Divine shows me ways to deal with my nature on a daily basis. Based on what I've seen from you, you should not lump me in with my brethren."

Dave bowed his head and apologized, "My apologies."

"I accept," the priest noted. "I want to be your friend. Hopefully, that'll be possible."

"Of course," the medievalist agreed, gripping the other's hand. "And thank you."

"You're welcome," Rev expressed. "Now then, Trance and I were wondering if you'd like something to eat. Besides, our engineer, Mr. Harper, would like to speak further with you as well."

"If that's okay with you," Trance added.

"Sure. Lead on," he stated, following the others out of the plant area and into the metallic hallways once again.


Beka frowned as she stalked out of the observation deck. Sure, Dylan had instructed her to make sure that their guests were comfortable, but did that look-alike Earther have to be so irritating? No sooner did she get into the deck then the questions started coming in rapid gauss gun fashion.

"Problems?" Andromeda's image asked as she appeared in front of the first officer.

"Rommie...I..." Beka started to complain and bit her lip. "It's that woman!"

The AI realized, "Ah, you mean the one they call 'Tracy'. Yes, she looks like you, but doesn't act like you. It bothers you, doesn't it?"

"Damn right it does! How can she be"

"Now, Beka," the image said soothingly. "Remember that different environments lead to different outlooks. She's from the past and has spent her entire life on Earth. You, on the other hand, have experienced much more than she ever will. I wouldn't be so hard on her."

"That's easy for you to say," the former spacer ranted, crossing her arms.

Andromeda smiled. It wasn't often that Beka got so frustrated over a guest. She really did care even if she wouldn't admit it. Then, she picked up on another behind her. "What do you think, Sir Nicolas?"

Nick approached them with a great deal of uncertainty. While he had been in space before with the Duboises, he was still adjusting to this situation. "About what?"

"How do you deal with her? She's so infuriating!" Beka complained.

The vampire detective chuckled, "With a great deal of patience. Yes, Tracy has her faults, but so do we all. Besides, you do remind me of her."

"WHAT??" she bellowed, drawing her force lance and aiming it at him. "You take that back! I'm nothing like her!"

Andromeda looked at Nick and requested, "Can you please not aggravate her like this? I do need her to pilot us later."

"If you say so. Personally, I think that's a very Tracy-like reaction, Beka," Nick said, throwing another verbal jab. "Crossing the arms and fuming at me. On that note, I'm heading back to the Infirmary. Deirdre popped in and left a bottle of cow blood with Trance for dinner." Zipping off in a blur, he left the two women to themselves.

"Blood," Beka winced. "Ugh."

"He is a vampire, you know," the image informed her. "Would you rather I not let him into the blood bank, tell him to starve, and have a potential predator on the loose in here?"

"No, I guess not," the first officer sighed, disengaging her weapon. "I guess I'd better be getting back up to Command."

"I'll see you there," Andromeda concluded, vanishing into thin air.

As the first officer prepared to make her way there, claxons and lights began flashing. "Andromeda! What's going on?"

Dylan's voice rang out over the speakers. "All hands to command! This is a Code Black situation! The Magog are back! I repeat: the Magog are back!"

Beka groused, "Looks like the fun's over." Then, collecting her wits, she raced up the corridors toward command .

Chapter 13 [Tucson, The Morgue]

For almost two hours, Natalie waited for word on Nick and the others. To pass the time, she tried to stretch out her reports to no avail. Finally, she took a deep gulp from her lukewarm coffee cup and slumped into her chair.

Ten minutes later, Steve and Schanke walked back into the area, each wearing a look somewhere between utter amazement and outright concern.

"What's wrong, guys?" she inquired. "Where's Trace?"

"She disappeared along with Nick, Dave, and our two femme fatales," Steve said, sitting down. "They flew off in some sort of sci-fi type spaceship. Weird."

"Yeah, I didn't get a clear look," the souvlaki-loving detective concurred, shaking his head. "By the time I got there, they were already streaking off into the sky. There was a lot of damage though."

"With our resident crew on site? Why am I not surprised?" the ME supposed sarcastically.

"The ground was scorched badly and fires burning everywhere. It smelled of burning fur and flesh. From the telltale splatters everywhere, I'd say Dave had a hand in it," the FBI agent recounted.

"So that was the explosion from earlier tonight," she realized. "Does Ramirez know yet?"

"Nope," Schanke informed her. "We came right down here."

The coroner sighed and rubbed her forehead. This was another fine mess, which Nick and Tracy had stumbled into. Given the way that Ramirez was feeling about the situation, they might be in trouble when they returned. "Guys, what have you gotten yourselves into?" she wondered.




[Fine Arts Museum, Campus]

Alyce sat at her desk, typing away on an exhibition report. The Sandoval exhibit had been wildly successful among the students and the local community. Now, as the display was being disassembled, her enthusiasm grew toward her next project. As soon as this report was finished, the next item-a collage from ancient Mycenae on loan from the Metropolitan Museum-would be next. Based on how many questions had already been asked about it, she estimated that the show would be an even bigger hit than the last one.

Just as she hit the save button, the curator felt a familiar vibration across her consciousness. Turning, she saw LaCroix standing there, staring at her expectantly. She asked, "Yes, what can I do for you?"

The Roman Elder smiled at the fledgling's show of strength. "I...was wondering if you had seen Nicholas within the last few hours?" he inquired.

"No, he's working," she said. Then, she scratched her head, wondering, "You know, as much as I hate to admit it, I've been having the strangest feelings over the past few hours."

"Really?" her "father" replied curiously, his eyebrow arching. Apparently, Janette had been right on target. The curator had formed a bond with his wayward child. "And what pray tell are you feeling?"

"Something strange and it seems fuzzy as if he's far away. He's in a place totally made of metal. Detective Brown's with him as are David, Xena, and Gabrielle not to mention some others whom I can't place."

He nodded. Her senses were rapidly developing. Apparently, he had underestimated her. That was an error he wouldn't duplicate any time soon. "I have felt similar things through my link with him, my Dear."

"Really? Come to think of it, I felt an overwhelming pang of guilt from him. I wondered why that was," she worried.

He sighed, "Oh, that's Nicholas: a vampire who won't kill and has pangs of conscience when he must do so. Do yourself a favor, Alyce, do not fall into that particular trap." A threatening glimmer in his eyes let her know that he meant business.

She suppressed a shudder, recollecting her thoughts before replying, "So, does anyone know where he is?"

"No, he's vanished along with the others," he admitted uncomfortably. Admitting that Nick was beyond his reach was not one of his favorite things. "However, for the moment, he is alive. That I can assure you." Turning, he concluded over his shoulder, "If he does show up, you will let either Janette or me know, won't you?"

"I'll tell her," the curator declared, albeit more securely than she felt.

"You do that," he hissed, noting the rebellious streak in his "daughter". Apparently, her time around the Duboises and Nick had filled her head with the wrong kind of ideas. "I shall have to instruct her differently when the time is right," he noted. After all, as his unwitting pawn in the great match to reconvert Nick, her obedience was crucial. Finally, he zipped off into the moonlit sky, streaking toward the downtown area.

"I wish he'd leave us alone," she sighed wishfully although she knew that such thoughts were futile. The old Roman regarded the whole town and the vampires in it as his dominion. At some point, she wished that Xena would deal with him once and for all, leaving them and Eve alone.

Then, she felt another essence within the darkened corridors of the museum. "What is she doing here?" Alyce wondered and hurried off to investigate.



After Deirdre had dropped her off at the office, Eve had wandered across the grassy mall area to the museum. Even after she had left the battlefield, the pounding in her head had increased, now bordering on being unbearable. Finding an open side door, she slipped into the facility and groped her way through the halls and down the stairwells. It was almost as if something was guiding her to an exact spot.

"What is this?" she muttered, rubbing her temples. "Eli, give me strength."

Finally, she stopped on the bottom floor. There, she looked at the case in front of her. Within it, were an old breastplate, a white cape, and a sword with only a few spots of rust on it. The placard read "Military Implements, Roman first century AD, soldier unknown".

"Soldier unknown indeed," another voice cackled behind her.

The former Messenger froze at the sound behind her, instantly recognizing it. Turning, she saw Livia's image materialize in the darkness. "What is it?" she demanded.

The commander laughed. "Such a tone, Sister. Can it be that the meek Messenger girl now has a backbone?"

"You'd be surprised," Eve asserted, trying to ignore the drums beating in her brain.

The image said, "I'm sure. Maybe those Amazons have a use after all if they can toughen even you up a bit." Allowing a sarcastic, sweet smile to linger a moment, thus irritating the other, she continued, "You must realize now that my way is the only way."


Livia sighed impatiently. As much as she found these games amusing, the time was coming when she would have to take matters into her own hands. While she had been taking back pieces of the mental landscape from her "sister" most unnoticed, Gabrielle knew about her presence, and she had felt the touch of David Dubois' Child persona earlier that night. Soon, Xena would know as well and she couldn't allow her Mother to stop her plan. "I'll have to bring Lucius into this," she told herself.

"You can't!" Eve protested, her face turning white. "They'll kill each other!"

"Oh, Sister! You are so melodramatic! I have no wish to see our mother or brother killed," the conqueror cracked. "I just need her and the others occupied for a little while is all." Turning, she saw Alyce approaching in the darkness. "Well, well...Lucius's fledgling. Come forth, I know you're there."

Alyce stared at the two Eves or rather, what appeared to be two Eves, in utter dismay. "What is this? Who are you?"

"I'm your unknown soldier," Livia explained with a notable shrug added for emphasis. "Ask the one you call LaCroix about me." With that, she disappeared into the darkness.

As her other half vanished, Eve fainted.

The curator hurried over to the Religion professor's side, easing her to the floor. "Eve, can I get you something?"

Eve shook her head. "No, I...need to let Mother know...about her."

"Her? Who is she?" Alyce demanded.

"My darker side...Livia...Livia of Rome," the former Messenger stated weakly before blacking out.

The fledgling felt her indecision paralyzing her. What should she do? And why did the spirit...Livia...mention to talk to LaCroix about her? For a long ten minutes, she pondered the possibilities, trying to determine where would be the best place to take her, knowing full well that her friend couldn't be left alone tonight. "I know," she realized, taking off into the night sky.


Meantime, Natalie peered through the microscope at cell samples taken from her latest "patient". According to the report, the deceased man, Art Lawmuller, died of poisoning. Her analysis indicated arsenic, and the toxin showed up in the enhanced view. "Well, at least we know what got him. Now, it's a question of who did it," she concluded, proceeding over to her cabinet where her pathological tools were stored.

"Natalie!" Alyce exclaimed panickedly, rushing into the room with an unconscious Eve in her arms.

As much as she was still a tad bit sore concerning the whole mess with Nick, the coroner saw the fear in the fledgling's eyes. Her first thought was that she had drained the Religion professor, but, from a cursory view, there were no fang marks in the neck or the telltale bloody streaks. "What happened?" she decided to ask, wanting to know more. Moving Lawmuller onto a nearby gurney, the ME cleared room for her friend. "Can you put her on the table?"


Alyce nodded, placing their associate on the table with great care before noting, "Well...I was upstairs working on the write up for our last exhibit. Then, I sensed that someone was in the museum. I flew all around, trying to find the person. Eve was on the bottom floor, looking around."

"At this time of night?" Natalie wondered.

"It was strange, Natalie. Do you know the Roman exhibit with the breastplate and banner?" Getting a nod, she continued. "Eve was fixed in on it. There was something else there as well. A spirit of some kind, but it looked just like her, and told me that she was our 'unknown soldier'," the curator continued.

Nat paced about the room, trying to put together the pieces that the vampiress had dumped in front of her. Steve had taken her to see the exhibit just two days earlier. At that point, she had felt as if she should've known who the person really was. Now, from the long forgotten lectures in her Classics class at UT, she remembered. Looking up at Alyce, she said, "I know who your spirit is. She's..."

"Livia," LaCroix interrupted, entering the room purposefully. "I knew it was only a matter of time before my sister's true nature came back to the fore. I felt something unusual, a ripple the likes of which I haven't felt since before Vesuvius." A warm smile crossed his lips. With his stepsibling's return, he could turn the tables on Xena and Gabrielle and eliminate Dubois once and for all.

"Are you sure?" Alyce wondered, forcing herself to feel more secure than she felt.

"I'm quite sure," the Roman growled, advising his "daughter" to show some respect. Leaning close to Eve's sleeping form. "It'll be an easy matter to convince her of her true nature now."

"If we let you," Natalie contradicted, placing her hand over the former Messenger's eyes.

"Don't defy me, Doctor," LaCroix snarled, pulling the barrier away roughly. "Bad enough you would deny me Nicholas, but my sister as well?" Allowing his eyes to turn yellow, he continued, "I THINK NOT!!!"

"Let her make the choice, LaCroix!" the curator protested.

Ignoring the younger vampire, the former general continued to advance. At that moment, an explosion came from the back of the room, filling the area with a thick green herbal mist. Then, a sharp pain came from his side as a crossbow bolt imbedded itself in his side. His senses screamed at him.

"Get away from them," Steve hissed. "Just because Dave and Xena aren't here doesn't mean you get a free shot at her or any of us! Call me their stand in, but you aren't going to get anything here tonight!"

The Elder ripped the projectile from his side angrily, growling, "You should've minded your own business, Petersen. True, for tonight, I am weakened by your cowardly attack, but I will not forget this matter." With one last look at Eve, he took off.

"I hope he stays away," Steve muttered, dropping the weapon on her desk and embracing the coroner tightly. "Are you okay?"

"You showed up just in the nick of time," Natalie indicated, shaking in fear.

"I'll say," Alyce concurred.

"Good thing Dave let me borrow a few of his choice weapons and that I was on my way back here," the agent added. "So, I heard him saying something about Eve and Livia. Is the other personality that close to the surface?"

"They were arguing back in the museum," the curator reported.

He stated with great concern. "Dave doing that 'he said-he said' number is enough for all of us. Having Eve and Livia doing the same thing can't be good." He made a mental note to relay the information onto his missing friends upon their return--if and when they did so.

Not for the last time did the trio look skyward, wondering about the others, and hoping that they were all right. Whenever they did finish their business, they were needed on Earth once again.

Chapter 14 [Space]

Hearing the claxons blaring and lights blinking, everyone assembled on the command deck, nervously awaiting the news. As the others joined him, Dylan was keying in something on his console and staring at the diagnostic screen in front of him. For her part, Beka studied her readouts as well.

"What is it?" Tracy asked.

Nick extended his senses beyond the Andromeda out into space. At first, he felt nothing, but then, he brushed up against a darkness floating out in the void. "Yes," he agreed. "You feel that, Dave?"

A low throaty growl served as a reply. The professor could also feel the Magog's presence, the latter prodding his inner darkness into a frenzy.

The captain noted this reaction, asking Andromeda while motioning with his eyes, "Status report?"

The female image appeared in front of him, saying, "He's in control for now. However, I sense the darkness surging forth from within him. Dylan, if the Magog attack, he will change."

Harper shuddered wordlessly at his post. The history vids had recorded Dubois' infamous tantrums for posterity. Accordingly, the engineer had no wish to be at ground zero when their guest lost control.

Trance studied the professor as well. Suddenly, she saw a possible future where they were fighting the invaders hand-to-hand on the ship. A mass of the furry aliens surrounded the professor, attacked him, and caused the change. She felt the psychic blasts charging the air and his scream deafen her. Then, she returned to the present.

"Here they come!" Tyr stated, only allowing the slightest bit of concern to crease his features.

"Battle stations!" Dylan ordered. Turning to his guests, he stated, "Usually, I'd order all of my guests back to quarters, but since all of you have encountered the Magog before, you can stay for the fight."

"Tracy, I think you should go down below," Nick indicated.

"What?" his partner argued. "No! I want to stay here! I can defend myself, you know!"

"I think that's a good idea," Rommie agreed.

The blonde detective grinned at her partner, apparently satisfied at being included in the operation.

On the monitor, they saw the battered yet still awesome armada streaking toward them. Eighteen ships strong, the invaders were determined to wipe them off the galactic map.

On Dylan's mark, Tyr and Beka fired salvo after salvo of missiles, mines, and laser blasts into the fleet, managing to cut the enemy numbers in half. A third round took out three more. However, the sensors alerted them that the remaining six ships had attached themselves to the hull and were punching their way through.

"Damn," Beka hissed. "I thought we just left this dance."

"Tyr, you have command. Beka, come with me to the weapons locker," Dylan commanded. "How about all of you?"

"Unless you've got some body armor, I think we're good to go," Dave said, checking his arrows over. While he would've liked to have more shafts in his quiver, he had enough to start with.

"I think we can manage that. Follow us," the first officer told them.


Five minutes later, Dave, Nick, Tracy, and Gabrielle were fitted out in standard High Guard battle armor. Tracy and the Bard-Queen also received a force lance, as had Xena.

"Nice," the Warrior Princess admired, twirling the metallic rod.

"I'm glad you like them," Rommie commented. "Because the hull's been breached on Decks 35-38. Whether we like it or not, the Magog are here."

"Then, let's party," Dave said eagerly, readying his bow and rushing out into the passage.

"Is he always like this?" the captain asked.

"Uh huh," Xena agreed, allowing herself a knowing smirk. "C'mon, let's get after him."


The Magog poured into the six holes, advancing toward an encounter with the humans. Somehow, the meat had offended the Spirit. Accordingly, they had to die. For several levels they trudged forward, battering a few servobots here and there with the sheer weight of their numbers.

Finally, just before Deck 25, they stopped, sensing the familiar darkness in front of them.

In response, Dave lit a napalm bomb and threw it up in the air.

"Is he nuts?" Beka wondered aloud.

"Watch," Xena noted grimly, her hand firmly placed on her chakram.

As the canister reached its highest point, the professor latched onto it with his mind. With his psychic powers, he hurled the incendiary device forward.

Just as it reached the Magog, it exploded, catching the lead invaders on fire, and causing them to retreat in pain. As they did so, several others shared their fate.

"My turn," Xena said almost eagerly, whipping her signature weapon into the horde. The chakram whizzed, ricocheted, and struck at the fuzzballs with a mind of its own. Even though they remembered this infernal thing's effectiveness, the Magog lost another ten members before it returned to her hand.

At that point, the invaders retreated back down the hallway.

"Dylan," Rommie informed the captain. "They're splitting up."

"Then, so will we. Tyr, Harper, and Trance can handle command, but you might want to go help him. Xena, Gabrielle, you're with me. David, Tracy, and Nick can go with Beka. Good luck, everyone," the captain wished.

"Right," his first officer agreed, leading the professor and vampire toward Engineering.

"Well, Ladies, I guess it's time to go hunting," Dylan told his remaining companions.

"Don't worry. We're good at it," the warrior advised him, drawing her sword and following his path.

Chapter 15

Tyr's eye scanned Andromeda's internal monitors. The infernal Magog were coming closer and he knew his side arm wouldn't take all of them. Worse, Harper was starting to panic over in the corner. Not that he blamed the little man after their last experience on the Worldship--having yourself implanted with their infernal brood was not a pleasant feeling--one that he knew all too well. Still, if they were to survive, everyone needed to keep their heads on straight. "Harper," he muttered callously.

"What?" the engineer replied. "I'm here...really, I am."

"Then act more like it."

"That's easy for you to say. You're a Nietzschean, the perfect fighting machine. Us poor Earth types aren't as capable as you are," Harper spat back.

"Funny, our guests seem to be able to hold their own against the Magog. Do the same, Little Man!" he ranted. "Stand and fight!"

"Tyr," Rev interjected, interrupting his meditation.

"What is it, Creature?"

"Yelling at Harper won't do any good. In fact, it's just making him less composed," the Wayist advised.

The mercenary snorted, "If it weren't for your brethren, we wouldn't be in this mess! We stand and fight." Glancing over at Trance, he added, "What are your thoughts on the matter?"

"I think we need to be careful," she replied, her earlier vision still imbedded in her consciousness. "Besides, I wouldn't be too excited about the way David is handling the Magog right now. He's paying a heavy price, wouldn't you say, Rev?"

The priest said, "Indeed. For every blow he strikes, that man loses another step to his inner darkness. Soon, I fear, it'll surface."

"Whatever," Tyr replied, batting his hand in the air between him and the others. "Power is meant to be used." Turning back to the console, he pushed, "Ship! Where are the others?"

Andromeda's image appeared before him. "The Magog have split up into three groups, as have our friends. One group is heading this way as is my avatar. Dylan is leading the two ancient warriors down one path while Beka takes David, Tracy, and Nicolas down the other. Be patient, Tyr. We'll soon have enough to deal with."

At that moment, the doors slid open, allowing Rommie to pop in before they snapped shut. "We only have a few minutes before they get here," she reported, setting down the bag in front of the others. "Here are some weapons from the armory." Reaching in, she handed everyone save Rev a pair of gauss guns, a force lance, and some body armor. "Get ready quickly!"

Everyone slipped into their protective suits and readied their weapons. The silence seemed deafening.

Then, the banging started on the doors, quickly putting dents in them. The Magog were there.


Dylan's party moved down toward Medical, wondering when they were going to run into their furry friends. While the trio could hear the invaders' growls echoing off of the walls, they couldn't see them yet.

"Remember," he urged, holding up his lance. "Snap your wrist and it expands out to full length." Doing so, he held the extended weapon in the air. "The firing button's on top."

"Right," Gabrielle agreed, copying his motions.

"Got it," Xena concurred distractedly, listening to the noises ahead of them. "They'll be here any second."

On cue, the fur brigade spilled into the passage, growling and slavering over their potential meals. A few fired laser bolts.

He shook his head and glanced up at the roof. "I still say Magog with guns suck." Readying his weapon, he yelled, "All set?"

The Warrior Princess grinned ferally and releasing a sharp 'shiiii-yaaaa', launched herself into the midst of the demonic aliens, cutting and slashing as she went.

Likewise, the bard bashed and blasted her share of heads.

For a minute, he allowed himself to watch the two longtime partners at work. "They're something else," he told himself, snapping back to reality. "I wish I could've seen her and Tyr going at it." Yet, for some reason, they did seem familiar almost as if they had fought beside each other before. "C'mon, Hunt, figure that one out later," he admonished himself. Aiming and firing rapid successive shots, the captain began to claim pelts of his own.


Beka crept along the hallway leading to Engineering. As with the other party, they had been hearing the Magog's echoes for quite a while. However, she didn't know what creeped her out more: the Magog or the fact that a vampire, her twin, and a borderline psycho were at her back. "Get a grip on yourself, Beka. Remember, they're on your side," she thought to herself.

Nick glanced down the passage and stated, "They're getting close." His eyes turned yellow and he allowed his fangs to descend.

Tracy shuddered at the sight of her friend's reaction. Being around Dave was bad enough, but when Nick vamped out, she wasn't sure that he could keep control.

Dave had his weapons prepared. Within his head, he heard the Child screaming for payback. As he had felt earlier, these aliens had a familiar feel to them. While he had not faced them before, they felt familiar--almost like the trolls from the Dark Pit. "Yeah, they're both mindless beasts," he snarled to himself.

"Are you all right back there?" the first officer inquired.

"Oh, never better," the professor grinned wickedly. "Just looking for some furry ass to kick."

"Be careful what you wish for, Chief," she muttered. "You may just get it."

At that moment, the invaders rounded the corner, facing them. Smelling the meals, they approached.

Beka backed away a few steps, grabbed her laser pistols, and began firing a swath into the Magog. "Uh, guys, now would be a good time..."

Fighting back a momentary wave of fear, Tracy aimed her gauss gun, firing a few volleys and taking out several invaders in the process.

Nick threw himself into the horde, allowing the Vampire full reign. Snapping necks, slashing throats, and crushing skulls, he took a toll on the forces in front of him.

The medievalist fired a few shafts into the wall of fur, but it seemed for every one he dropped, a dozen took their place. He couldn't fire any of his really toxic weapons without taking Beka out as well. "Only one way," he told himself, concentrating. Pointing, he fired mind blasts into the Magog, pummeling them.

However, a few slipped by his defenses, pinning him in the corner. One tried to spray acid in his face, but Dave turned away just in time. The substance still burned at the side of his face. "That's it!" he growled, allowing the Child to surface.

Summoning up a massive burst, the supposed prey sent his attackers flying in all directions. "'Bout time," he snarled. "Ah was wonderin' when ah'd git mah turn!" Bellowing a roar into the horde, the Child allowed his anger to seep into them. "Didn't learn from the last time, did ya?" he chuckled darkly, firing a massive pulse into the left flank, smacking them back against the far wall.

Remembering what Andromeda's scan had indicated earlier, Beka asked Nick between taking down Magog, "Is that?"

The vampire watched his friend for a second before saying to her, "That's his resident Child. Stay out of his way!" Having said that, he went back to his grisly work.

Firing four more times and dropping three more aliens, she told herself, "Valentine, remember, stay out of his way."

For almost an hour, the battle raged, but there was no doubt. Finally, the trio stood in the midst of their handiwork. Around them, better than one hundred and fifty Magog lay dead.

"Ya'll okay?" the Child asked, rubbing a few gashes along his arms and legs.

"Fine," Nick concurred.

"Body armor does wonders. Now, let's see if the others need help," she instructed, leading them toward Command.


As with Beka's group, Dylan, Xena, and Gabrielle disposed of their adversaries after a fashion.

"I gotta hand it to you two," he complemented. "You know how to fight."

"Practice makes perfect, Captain. I'd say the same about you. In fact, you remind me of someone I once knew," the Thracian warrior noted, sheathing her sword.

"Well, we can talk about it later," the High Guard survivor replied, retracting his lance. "Let's get to Command! This way!"

With that, he took off toward the nerve center of the ship followed by his two allies.


Meanwhile, Tyr and Rommie were holding off the insurgents from the Command area at blaster and lance point. However, as this was the biggest group of the three, the furry mass began to drive the android and the mercenary back.

Just as the two defenders' backs were pinned to the door, they heard a different snarling above the din and saw as Beka's group began tearing into the invaders' flank. A moment later, Dylan's sortie joined them, attacking from the other side.

Given that this was their first battle together with the others, Rommie marveled at how the newcomers had quickly adapted the Highguard's classic triangular attack pattern, utilizing it with deadly effectiveness. Between Nick's quick killing blows, the Andromeda's crew's laser blasts, Xena's sword and chakram, Gabrielle's staff and force lance not to mention the Dark One's mindblasts, the tide of battle quickly turned. Within a couple of hours, the fighting was finished.

"Andromeda," Dylan requested. "Status report?"

"All of the Magog are dead, Dylan. We did it," the android reported. Glancing over at the enraged professor, she inquired, "This is what I sensed earlier, isn't it?"

"Yeah, ah guess," he snarled. "Just give us a minute." Focusing and taking several short breaths, the two personalities flip-flopped again, allowing Dave to surface.

Glancing around him, he realized what had happened, "We did it, didn't we?"

"We did," Beka complemented, giving him a smile. "Although, you had me a little nervous back there."

Imagining what she had seen, the medievalist shrugged and stated, "You should try it from my point of view sometime." Wincing, he felt the pain coming from the gashes in his arms and legs, not to mention the usual telltale headache. "Do you think your purple friend could help us out a bit?"

"Of course," Trance agreed, looking at Xena, Gabrielle, and him. "I'll have you three patched up in no time. Follow me."

Watching as his guests headed for medical, Dylan shook his head, admiring how they had handled themselves in the crisis. Having allies like these, no matter what the time period, was a valuable thing. With that, he followed Beka, Tyr, and Rommie back into Command to assess the damage.

Chapter 16

A few hours later, Trance had finished patching everyone up. Fortunately, nobody had more than a few scratches and perhaps, a minor gash or two. Given what the group had just faced, that seemed relatively minor. Still, before Dylan would bring anyone back, he insisted that they all receive medical attention.

Once they were finished, the group headed back up to command.

There, Dylan was reading a report during that time. Seeing his guests enter the area, he asked, "How are you doing?"

"Okay," Gabrielle agreed.

Tracy shot her companions an anxious look. As banged up as they all were, she would have liked to have a patented excuse for Ramirez.

Nick shrugged. He was sure he wouldn't hear the end of this situation anytime soon from Vachon or anyone else for that matter.

Dave looked at the blue patches on his arms and thighs. Once they had returned home, he would keep them obscured even if that meant wearing a coat during the heat of the day. Still, that was a small price to pay considering what they had gone through. "So, what about all of you?" he asked. "How are you going back home?"

Andromeda's image flashed in front of them and answered, "The portal is closed. We're stuck in this time."

Everyone looked at the captain whose face looked ashen. If they couldn't get back to the future, his dreams of a renewed Commonwealth would be gone.

Xena stepped forward. "Maybe we can get you all home," she suggested. Seeing the others' confusion, she turned to her "roommate's" husband and asked, "Do you think Cybelle can help?"

"Maybe. But she'll need help," he said. "Let's see...." He meditated for a second and smiled. "She'll help."


Three hours later, Nick, Tracy, Xena, Gabrielle, and Dave stood on the desert floor along with the three head priestesses of Althanor. The latter had been deeply communing with the energies surrounding the Andromeda Ascendant.

Then, Genaria stated, "Let it happen now."

Deirdre added, "The time is right."

Cybelle, the head priestess, nodded and held up the jewel in the ornate crystal necklace to the sky, saying, "Let it be so."

From the three women, a beam of energy shot into the night sky and into the spot where the Spirit's portal had formerly been and, with their help, reformed. Then, they saw a silvery streak, almost like a shooting star, zip across the heavens and vanish through the brightest star.

"They made it," Deirdre noted.

"Okay, then it's time to go home," Dave indicated, seeing the pink just appearing in the eastern sky. "Right now, I want to sleep for about two days."

"Fine," Nick agreed. "As long as we get back before sunrise."

"Consider it done," Cybelle replied, waving her hands and covering them in the mists. With the adventure finished, it was time to rest before resuming their normal lives.



[Dahak's Realm]

The Spirit hissed in discontent, not bearing to witness his Magog scouts' decimation at the hands of Hunt and his allies. ["Curse them! They failed me! How could that happen?"]

Lousain shook his head. "Maybe if you had planned better. Dubois and his associates are more powerful than they look."

["Maybe if you would like to try next,"] the energy creature spat.

Dahak brought his claw down on the armrest of his throne. ["Enough! I will not tolerate any more of this dissension! Lousain, your opportunity will come."]

"Hopefully, your agents will do their job better than that one's," the wizard responded.

"Mind your tongue. The Magog did their job wonderfully. Just as with Divia, their secondary goals were met even in defeat. Dubois' anger was nudged just a bit higher. The former Crusader was forced to shed blood, violating his principles. Lucius is a bit more distrustful. And we have forced Eli's Messenger to the brink of fighting a loosing war with her Livia persona. As the mortals would say, this is but one move on the chessboard. They took a few pieces, but we can still win the endgame," the head demon explained. "Have patience."

The Spirit released an incomprehensible scream. Losing almost 2000 of his followers on a moral victory was too high a price to pay. To justify the fallen Magog, the plan had best work.

At that moment, two demons burst into the scene, kneeling before their lord's throne. "A thousand pardons, Your Wickedness."

"What is it?" the ruler demanded. "This had better be important!"

"It is," the second intruder stammered. "Hope...she...escaped the torment area."

"WHAT? HOW DID SHE ESCAPE?" Dahak bellowed.

"After the session was over, the guards saw her writhing on the ground. They turned their backs for just a second, and she blasted them unconscious before disappearing," the two recounted.

"And where are the guards now? Have them brought to me!" the master ordered. "Careless fools!"

The two vanished quickly and headed off in search of their doomed comrades lest they be next.

Dahak stewed for a long minute. Another unexpected development,and this one could ruin everything. Then, he began to chuckle confidently.

His allies exchanged skeptical thought transmissions, thinking that the dark lord had lost it.

Sensing what they were thinking, Dahak said, "No, this is working out perfectly. If Hope goes where I think she's going, this could work to my advantage. Yes, she could be the perfect wedge between Xena and Gabrielle. Thus in one stroke, I would reclaim my daughter, corrupt Eli's Messenger, and their mothers in addition to destroying the Amazons!"

After a minute, the others got his point. Sometimes, it wasn't the winning, but what you did with losses that really counted.

Conclusion [Tucson, The Next Night]

Dave sat in his office, peering over his notes for the upcoming lecture in an hour. It took the entire day for him to get his head together after the space trip. No matter how many times he took such adventures, he couldn't get himself to focus the day after.

A knock at the door grabbed his attention. "Yes?" he asked.

"Dave? It's Natalie. Can I come in?" the coroner requested.

"Sure. The door's open. I've got class in just a bit, but feel free," he agreed.

"Thanks," she concurred, entering the room anxiously. "So, how are you and Angie?"

"We're rubbing our bruises," he replied, rolling up his sleeve and showing the wrapped forearm. "We had some uninvited visitors to deal with."

"Uninvited?" she asked. "What was that explosion from the other night?"

"A napalm blast. We needed to take out a big bunch of those 'guests' out," he commented.

Her mind flashed back to LaCroix's comment from the other night. "And Nick dropped it, right?"

"He did," he admitted. "I didn't want to make him do it, but there was no other way." Seeing her start to flush from anger, he continued, "Now wait a damn minute! Don't start! We were surrounded."

"You sure there was no other way?" she snapped. "Nick's been slipping backwards lately. The more he kills, the more the vampire comes out. If this keeps going, he'll be back to his old medieval self."

"Don't push it, Natalie," he growled, sipping from a lukewarm cup of coffee. "Nick's a big boy. If he chooses to help, that's his choice. I regret having to put him in the middle of that mess, not to mention having to bring the Child out two more times to deal with the Magog, but if we didn't, we'd be in even more serious trouble right now."

She frowned, folding her arms across her chest before wishing, "I hope that's the end of it."

"Me too," he sighed hopefully. "But who knows what tomorrow will bring? Meantime, I have Eve's lecture to cover in an hour. By the way, what's going with her anyway? Francesca said she was sick."

The coroner laughed sarcastically, "Sick? Oh, she's more than sick."

"Nat, what's going on? The other night I was getting some weird vibes off of her. It was like looking at myself."

"I would say so," the ME agreed.

"I sensed Eve and Livia," Dave continued. "And I'm sure that LaCroix knows by now too. I want him out of this matter."

"Too late. After Alyce brought her down to the Morgue, it was all we could do to keep LaCroix from taking her right there and then. Fortunately, Steve showed up with some of your toys. Dave, you and Angie need to know that Eve's struggling to hold off Livia. If she lapses...." Natalie reported.

"I don't want to know about the fight between her and Xena," he said knowingly, rubbing his temples. "And if LaCroix gets involved, it'll get ugly."

"Bringing you and Nick into it, I'm sure," the pathologist sighed.

"Like I'm going to let his Arrogance come between Xena and Eve? Not bloody likely. Besides, I owe that son of a bitch big time," he vowed. "Sorry to cut you short, but I do have a class. Can you talk with Angie about it?"

"Absolutely," she agreed. "I'll go speak with her and Francesca right away. And Dave, sorry about accusing you before. I just care about what happens to Nick and Eve."

"I know. No need to apologize, Nat. We'll take care of it," he advised. "Thanks for coming by and for being a good friend."

"I'll see you later," she concluded. "And you're welcome." With that, she left the office, allowing Dave to make his final preparations.


[El Gato Negro-Later that Evening]

For Nick, it had been a long night. No sooner had he walked into the Precinct than had Ramirez lectured him and Tracy about their disappearing act during the previous night. Then, Schanke, Steve, and Natalie wanted to be filled in about those events. Finally, the usual paperwork sat in a pile on their desks, waiting for them to return. For several hours, the two partners plowed through the forms before she suggested that they head over to the El Gato for a break. Desperate to get out of there, he agreed.

As soon as the two partners entered the club, they felt the vampires' attention turn to them. Making their way down the stairs, the duo made their way over to the bar. Admittedly, for Nick, it was a strange feeling to openly walk into the Community's central meeting place with her after evading her on so many other occasions up in Toronto.

Seeing Vachon over in the corner, she told him, "If you need me, I'll be with Javier."

He nodded and watched her cross the room toward her roommate's table. "At least, they can be open about it," he said to nobody in particular.

"As should you, Nicolas," Janette cut in, placing a glass in front of him. "We've been sensing...strange things from you."

"Janette, it's good to see you too," he stated while taking a gulp from his glass.

"I'm sure," she continued. "Tell me, have you been by to see Alyce yet? She was very concerned when you disappeared."

"I'll call her when I get back to the Loft," he promised. Yet another detail left unresolved. He shook his head, a pained expression painted clearly on his face.

"You do that, mon Cher. But, I am concerned about you, Nicolas. Last night, we picked up on something strange from you. A crisis of conscience, perhaps?" she asked, trying to prod him onward toward a resolution.

"You might say that. I was in a situation where I was forced to kill to protect everyone here. It was a situation I thought I had left behind," he revealed angrily.

"But you did so during the Crusades, did you not? You are a killer by nature, Nicolas, therefore killing is what you are...your modus operandi," she debated.

"No. I will not stoop to that ever again," he denied fiercely, draining his glass rapidly.

"Tell that to the poor cow whose blood you're devouring, Nicholas," LaCroix indicated, sauntering up to the bar.

"Go away, LaCroix. I'm not in the mood," Nick dismissed.

A flash of anger briefly surged through the Roman. "Such rudeness from all of my children. I shall have to teach them respect at some point," he noted before continuing, "I was...simply going to complement you on your accomplishment."

"Killing isn't an accomplishment!"

"When are you going to learn, Nicholas? You are a vampire and, just as Janette pointed out, killing makes you what you are," the Elder sighed, sipping from his own bloodwine. "Besides, last night was a truly wondrous night between you and my sister." A knowing and almost cocky smile spread across his face.

"Eve? What about her?" Nick demanded.

"Oh, now you're interested, are you?" the Roman chuckled. "Well, it seems she has an internal conflict." Seeing the look on his former protÈgÈ's face, he pressed on. "And I think you know what I'm talking about. Soon, I'll have Livia back in my corner."

"I've heard that one before, LaCroix. Do yourself a favor and stay away from her. As much as you repulse me, I don't want to see you impaled on the end of Xena's sword," the former Crusader warned.

The General arched his right eyebrow in amusement. "As if I would allow that to happen. I do appreciate your concern, Nicholas. Truly, I do. However, I would advise you to stay out of the conflict when it happens. Who knows what can happen in the heat of battle?"

"Either way, you're going to hurt for it, LaCroix," Nick prophesized. "No matter which one takes Livia if and when she takes over, the other is still capable of besting you."

"If you're speaking of Dubois, we've already had this discussion," LaCroix noted, growing more terse. "I do hope to meet him...and have the honor of killing him. Don't worry, I'm quite well prepared this time."

Nick shook his head and stood up. Seeing Tracy waiting for him by the door, he got up without a word and followed her out of the front door. While it was true that he had needed to kill for the sake of self-defense, he wasn't proud of having to do it, nor did he need LaCroix rubbing it in at that point.

After the younger one had left, Janette leaned across the bar, suggesting, "Perhaps you shouldn't rub it in so much, LaCroix. Remember, one draws more flies with honey rather than vinegar."

The Elder shrugged. While it was true that he needed to control things, perhaps it wouldn't hurt to let things develop a bit more. Accordingly, he said thoughtfully, "I suppose you're right. Yet, Nicholas does need to realize who and what he is. I fear that we aren't done with this particular mess, Janette. No, Divia's appearance and disappearance not to mention the situation in the desert were too convenient. Dahak has returned and we shall see more of his gamesmanship yet."

She shook her head, stating, "I hope we'll be ready."

"We must be, Janette," the Roman declared, getting up from his stool. "There is too much at stake for us to be otherwise." Stepping out the front door, he looked around to make sure no mortals were nearby and took off into the night sky for his abode. While he had gains to consolidate, so many other things still hung in the balance both for him and for the others. A turning point was coming. And once again, nothing would be the same.

THE END (for now)

(I hope you enjoyed this piece! Comments, of course, can be sent to . If you liked this story, please feel free to look at the other pieces of the Dubois Chronicles on my "Story Emporium" site ( or ). The next segment, which will be entitled "Something Wicked This Way Comes" (Part 2 of the War Saga) will be in the Amazon Scrolls. Part 3 will be back here in the regular "Duboisverse". Thanks for your interest!)

Back To Main Page