There is Always Hope
the Thunder Chick
by Rohan the Thunder Chick
Disclaimers: Quantum Leap and Xena: Warrior Princess characters are copyright material of their corresponding parent companies. No infringement is intended, and this story is for non-profit entertainment purposes only.
Violence: This story contains scenes of graphic violence and gore. Do not continue if you are sensitive to these issues.
Subtext: slight subtext and main text. Nothing too graphic, but you never know your imagination.
Sex: Foreplay but no sex despite the characters wanting to·.
Spoilers: Spoilers for the later part of the end of third, fourth and beginning of fifth X: WP Seasons·.
Please note: I am very wordy here. Most teachers tell you to write what you know and use as few words to capture the imagination of the reader. Since I am writing this basically to get it out of my head, I guess it is from my imagination and therefore, as wordy as my brain..help..I am trapped in this maelstrom called Rohan's mind..send up flares, SOS, or better yet, send food!
"Thank you, Mr. President." I said with reverence as Richard Nixon shook my hand. His blue eyes shone with intelligence and once again I was struck by the dichotomy of my feelings. Here he was, one of the most powerful dynamic men in the world and in just two years, he would be slowly walking up the metal steps to Helicopter One a broken, ruined and impeached, the Watergate Scandal destroying the faith of the American people in their leaders. Sometimes, I hated time travel. But at least, his wife would be alive this time. He nodded solemnly as he turned and headed for the Oval Office. Then the President stopped and faced me; a wry grin on his thin lips as he gave me a two fingered salute before being enveloped by his entourage.
"You did good, kiddo."
A shimmering form materialized at my elbow almost causing me to jump out of my skin.
"Don't do that, Lex!" I hissed under my breath as aide de camps passed by, just seeing me as another full dress Marine officer complete with sword and spit polished black shoes that pinched the heck out of my toes, standing at attention in the halls of the White House.
Lexington "Lex" Burke, coordinator extraordinaire, snickered as she read a multi-lighted palm pilot wannabe in her hands. She had been with me for who knew how long since leaping often caused synaptic amnesia in its subjects, meaning that my brain was Swiss cheese most of the time. But I always recognized Lex no matter what condition my memory was currently in. Tall, stunning and an Olympic Tri-Athlete, Lex was not just a looker, she was one of the top ten brilliant people in the world whose Valley Girl looks and speech hid very well. Following the footsteps of Doctor Sam Beckett, Lex and a group of other scientists lead by Admiral Al Caducei worked in harmony with a biological computer named Ziggy who searched for 'blips' in the timeline and sent out 'fixers' to, what else, fix it.
That is what I was, a 'fixer', now in 1970, the year of my birth, in the body of a 22 year old Lance Corporal Marine who just saved the life of Pat Nixon from a horrible death in an automobile accident. I waited for the inevitable post leap synopsis that Lex always gave me before I 'Quantum Leaped' into another hot spot in time.
"Tricky Dick does not commit suicide in 1973. Ford even pardons him in '74. As for Gregor Martinez, whose body, I must say, you wear very well, becomes one of the first Hispanic Joint Chiefs of Staff and goes on to marry Betty Alvarez and have three wonderful kids, one who just happens to ·oops·that is classified information."
"Darn it, Lex. You never let me know anything."
"Well, I might be able to convince Ziggmiester to let you stay a bit longer in that fab body so you can go have some fun with Betty."
"Lexington!" I snapped, blushing, remembering the uncomfortable experience of trying to avoid the explicit intentions of Gregor's future wife. Lex brushed a stray blonde hair from her face with a perfectly painted fingernail.
"Ah, poor Chase. You need to loosen up. Quit being Miss Perfect, Straight Laced, Goody Two Shoes for once."
"I like being Miss Perfect, Straight Laced, Goody Two Shoes. It is the only thing I can remember from my past, which, I remind you, that you won't tell me about. So when do I leap?"
Lex flicked a switch. An odd squeak emanated from the box and she cuffed hit hard with the side of her hand. It hummed contently. She chewed on Luscious Lavender by Revlon lips for a moment then brightened.
Blue fire erupted behind my eyeballs and I was falling and.. it ·was·.so ··wrong..
"YEOW!" I screamed as I crashed against something rock hard and unforgiving; tight twisting spasms wracking muscles, and pain exploded every synapse of my body. Breath, I cried to myself, breath! After an agonizing eternity, the lead weight on my chest eased off and I was gasping for air.
Little by little, the pain receded, followed by a tingling in my legs and arms that felt like a thousand beetles racing under my skin. Man, it hurt. I couldn't even open my eyes it hurt so badly. Then someone, or something, grabbed hold of my jaw, harshly prying it open and cold thick, cloying liquid was forced down my throat. Gagging, clawing, I managed to slap away a cup held by a bony hand and roll onto my side and ignoring the searing pain in my back, vomited. And vomited. And vomited.
Finally, weak, dizzy and exhausted, I let those bony hands lay me on my back. The pain faded to a mere throbbing, the coppery, sickly sweet taste lingering in my mouth. My sore stomach rolled again. Calm. I needed to remain calm. One of the first things always pounded into my brain when I started a new leap. Okay. I was a professional. I can do this. A deep breath caused my sides to ache; I focused on my surroundings and let the air out slowly.
Cold stone under my body. Low, rhythmic chanting echoed all around me. I must be in a large chamber or cave. The air was cool, breezy, smelling of wood smoke, strange incense, sweat and blood. Blood? Managing to open one eye was a chore, but I did it.
Then I wish I hadn't. Those bony hands were connected to a gaunt, thin bald man of about fifty with muddy brown eyes and pasty complexion of someone never seeing the sun. He wore a black and red rough linen robe that hung loosely upon his anorexic frame. Yet, there was no doubt of the rapture in his expression as he raised his hands upwards and keened a reedy, blackboard-screeching cry. Hundreds of voices joined him.
Calm? Remain calm? Panic is more like it! Ignoring the pain, I rolled myself into a ball and tried to hide under my arms. Fetal position. I liked that position. Silence. What? Heart pounding in my chest like a jackhammer, I peeked out from under my elbow. The priest, he had to be a priest, was staring down at me, his mouth gaping open in mid howl. His jaw snapped shut.
Blinking, he swallowed at looked sheepishly around him.
"The Goddess has been reborn to us. She requires rest to regain the strength taken from her by the Betrayer." He whispered. The acoustics of the place were great. His words reverberated in my head as well as the chamber. Goddess? Reborn? Oh boy.
"May I be of any further assistance, My Goddess?" the priest asked from his kneeling position. I was lying on several fur skins that had not only seen better days but stank to high heaven. A large burly acolyte had carried me through the cave depositing me into this smaller chamber with such fear that he almost dropped me onto the bed. He quickly skittered off under the glare of the priest. The pain had reduced to a mere aching in my joints as the priest clapped his hands and several more robed people, young women this time, entered carrying trays of fruit and pitchers. He then kowtowed before me.
"That will be all." I managed to croak, waving my hand at him. I did not see him go my attention riveted to my hand. It was covered in blood. In fact, my whole body, my whole naked body was covered in blood. I froze. It wasn't my blood. No. It was not. Licking my lips carefully tasting salt and copper, I realized what had been in the cup the priest had forced down my throat. Dry heaves hit again with a vengeance.
The tongue-tied priestesses were nothing if not efficient. A large copper vessel was drug into the room, buckets of hot water filling it to the brim. I was too physically drained to worry about these strange women seeing me naked so I did not resist as they helped me into the tall basin and down into that wonderful hot soapy water. It felt so good. The water, which quickly turned deep red, was replenished two more times till the water ran clear as I sat there. This gave me time to study the person, this supposed goddess into whom I had leaped.
Long blonde tresses, slender and athletic frame with surprising muscle definition especially in the abdomen, solid legs which, no doubt, did a lot of walking or bike riding and arms accustomed to exercise. Over all, quite a neat, little package. As for the face, there were no mirrors in the small chamber. However, a quick feel assured me that there were not any scars or crooked teeth. Still. I had to be hideous looking from the terrified respect these girls were giving me.
They had just finished brushing my wet hair when the small hairs on my arms tingled and a humming in my bones made me sit straight up. A flash of bluish purple light, puff of scentless smoke and a tall muscular leather clad man with a large sword at his hip appeared across the room. One of the girls squealed "Ares" as they all jumped back. Since I was used to Lexie popping in at odd times, the sudden appearance of this man didn't startle me at all.
"Well, look what the priests dragged home. Hello, Hope. Long time no see well, since your last death. Your daddy just won't let you rest, will he?"
Hope. So my name is Hope. And last death? Oh great. This leap was shaping to be one heck of a doozy.
I sighed, trying to hide my excitement at finally being able to find out what was going on.
"You know what they say, No rest for the wicked."
The man laughed. He stepped forward into the candlelight and my mouth went dry. Here was the most gorgeous man I had ever seen.
Short cropped black hair, tanned skin, perfect goatee and lots of hair on a well formed chest, military style sleeveless leather vest, tight black leather pants, boots and wide black leather tooled belt with glittering gemstones. Most of all was the color of his eyes. Incredible, dreamy hazel with long curling lashes that seemed to glow from the inside. An aura of power and pure sex appeal surrounded him. Was it too hot in here? The tepid bath water now seemed to boil as he stepped closer. I could feel my entire body thrum with lust. Good heavens, these two must have been lovers; I thought idly trying to fight off the urge to run my fingers through his hair.
"You girls can go now. I want to discus business with your boss."
The priestess blinked at me, obviously terrified of this tall dark stranger, but more terrified of me. Believing I could find out more without them around, I waved them off. The chamber emptied quickly. The man had never stopped walking forward, his eyes holding mine.
He stopped short of the tub, gazing around the chamber with a small mocking smile.
"So, I see that your followers are not up on their tributes." He gestured at the shabby trappings and then picked up a bruised pear and dropped it back down on the plate as if it were full of maggots. Embarrassment flushed my face. I suddenly felt like a third rate citizen then I realized that is what he wanted me to feel. Manipulation seemed to be his key. Hmm. Well, two can play at that. I ignored him and looked around for a towel.
"Look who is talking." I said standing up in the tub, stretching, and showing every inch of available skin knowing he would look. And he did.
"Well," he said after clearing his throat as I stepped out of the basin and began drying myself.
"Death has been good for you."
"All that rest is good for you. You should try it."
Genuine laughter rocked the room.
"I do believe you are developing a sense of humor, Hope. Hmm. Maybe your mother's side of the family is showing now."
He waited, expecting a response. Play it by ear, Chase, play it by ear.
"That remains to be seen."
"Good thing that she and Xena are in India or they would be here right now running a sword through your lovely, well..developed..body."
"Are you offering protection?"
I finished drying and pulled on a rough linen robe, my mind furiously turning gears. So mom wanted to off Hope and who was Xena? And most of all, where was Lexie?
Somehow, for I did not hear him move, the stranger was in front of me. Wow, he was tall. And muscular and very, very sexy. My body had a mind of its own and I found myself reaching out and running my fingers along the edge of his vest, brushing lightly over the curling hairs across his pectorals. His scent was of leather, heady musk and a masculine uniqueness that I wanted to breathe in forever. A constant throbbing in my groin matched my racing pulse and my breath became shallow and ragged. Fire raced through my veins as he bent down and our lips touched. Oh, it felt so good. His hand slipped into the robe, tracing a blazing path of molten desire across my skin and small noises came from my throat.
"It's been too long." He murmured, kissing me deeply. My knees turned to jelly and I grasped onto his vest trying to keep upright. What I wanted to do to him surprised me since I normally put my mission before personal pleasure but oh my! What he was doing to my senses was incredible. I wanted more.
"Our child will help me destroy the other gods and we will reign supreme."
I bit his lip in surprise. He yelped pushing me away from him.
"Child?" I gasped, trying to regain my dignity, heart still pounding like a jackhammer in my chest.
If we just hadn't been swapping spit a moment ago, I would have found his hopping around, hand to his bleeding mouth comical. Instead, I was weak and dazed and alarmed. Child? Vague but horrific memories of pain, screaming, a blue creature with spines, stabbed, agony then·I shook my head. Those were not my memories I knew that for sure. My mind might be scrambled during leaps, but I always retained a sense of self. This time·this time it was different. It was as if I had merged with this Hope. Eerie.
"What did you do that for?" griped this Ares. "You know that is part of the deal. A child between us and your daddy, Dahok, helps me rid Olympus of the gods."
Oh boy. He really thought he was a god and this was ancient Greece. I was in a loony bin for sure.
"That part of the plan has changed." I said low and as dangerously as I could. Inside I was quivering, hoping that Lexie would show up any second to help me out. To cover my shaking, I sat down plucking a grape from a pitiful looking bunch and popped it into my mouth.
The man's dark eyebrow raised. Good. He was not mad but intrigued. This might work after all.
"Changed. Interesting. But what about my deal wi.."
"Don't worry, Ares." I purred, letting a bit of Hope slide into my tone. "You will get what is coming to you. I have a mission to accomplish, then. And only then, will I be able to discuss Dahok's will for you."
He stood, glaring at me. Time ceased to exist as our eyes met.
Oh..my..heavens·I wanted him so badly I could almost taste him. My yearnings, Hope whispered in my mind. I coughed on another grape. The feeling of another presence in my mind seemed so par for the course on this crazy leap. Come on, Lex! I am drowning here!
Whatever he was trying to accomplish by the stare worked for he smiled rakishly and saluted me.
"Till then, Hope. And don't worry. I will let you know when your dear sweet mother returns. I am sure you are anxious to see her and Xena." And he disappeared in a flash of light and smoke.
Xena. Hope growled in my mind and I was overcome with such deep jealousy that my stomach began to ache. Then the emotion was gone and I was back to my old confused self. I was really beginning to hate this leap.
I felt totally drained after the confrontation with Ares. My ardor had quickly cooled leaving me restless and irritable. Overwhelming hunger took over rational thinking and Hope remained silent as I turned to the table. Ignoring the less than perfect tributes, I ate everything in sight.
Partially satiated, I roamed the rock walled room discovering several scrolls written in Greek. Oddly, I found I could read Greek. Had I learned before or was it Hope's influence?
Impressed by the sentence structure and flowing story I sat down at the table and gave the scrolls my complete attention. They had to hold the secrets I need to know to find out what was going on. And did they ever.
I found out that Dahok was an evil god who impregnated a bard named Gabrielle who gave birth to an evil child named Hope in Britannia. Hope grew up quickly and then killed Xena's son Solon. Gabrielle committed infanticide not once but twice when Hope came back a second time. However, Gabrielle saved Xena from being killed by the Fates, (the Fates? Oh that was a good one) by grabbing Hope and falling into a lava pit. This Xena, whom Hope was so jealous of, was a warrior princess who once fought for evil and now was fighting for redemption and for the good of mankind.
Then to top it all off, Hope returned a third time pretending to be her mother and having giving birth to a "Destroyer", she planned Xena's death only to be foiled again by Gabrielle who had somehow survived the fall into the lava. Ironically, it was Hope's child that killed her, mistaking her for Gabrielle as Xena thrust her sword into his back. Again they burned Hope and the monster and buried the remains in an aqueduct being built by the Roman's in Gaul.
My head hurt once I finished the scrolls. It was either the content or that bad kumquat I ate earlier. Or the fact that flashes of someone else's memories was dizzying. I needed fresh air.
Even as I rose to search for some appropriate clothing to traipse around the outside world in, a shuffle of feet at the entrance of the cave caught my attention. It was the Priest.
"My Goddess. The Acolytes spoke of Ares. Is he.."
"Don't worry about him. Or do you doubt my powers?" I growled. The priest cringed, falling to the ground. I could feel Hope chuckling inside. Hmm. Ares was wrong. Hope did have a sense of humor. Warped, but there.
"No, no, my Goddess. We," He cleared his throat as he stood up, his face looking like a ferrets as he grinned. "have a surprise for you." The priest gestured behind him. "Bring her in!"
It took several brawny boys to drag in a screaming, clawing bleached blonde spitfire and toss her at my feet. No help from Hope who this furious pixie looking girl in chains was spitting at my toes. The girl jerked her head up to glare at me.
"You spawn of Hades. You had me fooled once. It will not happen again!" and she lunged.
Simply stepping aside was a much better alternative than allowing the cult goon squad to bash her over the head with clubs they brought out from under their robes.
"Let her be." I commanded. The girl, now tangled up in the wrist and leg manacles was angrily trying to get back to her feet but to no avail.
"My Goddess, let me destroy this apostate." The priest reached for her.
He gaped at me. Non-chalantley, I nudged the girl with my toe. She tried to bite it.
"You gave her to me as an offering. Therefore, she is mine to do with as I wish. Thank you, Priest. Now go. And find me some clothes worthy of my position. This robe is pathetic!"
I caught a glimpse of total astonishment then anger in his face before the smarmy I am your servant look veiled his expression again. I was not scoring points with this one.
He bowed touching his nose to the floor and scooted out of the chamber, his goons trailing him with knowing smirks. I turned my attention to the girl.
About twenty with short, spiky white hair, dazzling white teeth, and light blue eyes with milky white skin, the girl slender and gangly and very picture of what I imagined a pixie to be. A violent pixie.
Sighing because her angry vibes were not helping my headache, I went over to the clay water jar and poured a full cup. Then, kneeling by her side, I tapped the cup.
"I suppose you are going to spit this water back into my face if I give you a drink, right?"
"Ha! You know it!"
I took a long drink, smacking my lips..
"Ah, good stuff, Maynard. Now, you can either have a drink or not. It is up to you."
Bruises and dirt marred her arms where the goons had drugged her and her lips were chapped. I could see the war raging on her face between dire thirst and rebellion.
"Tell you what, I shall leave the cup here and you can do with it what you want."
I turned my back on her and began searching the room for a key to the chains. A slight clinking of chains behind me and I whirled, catching the cup just inches from my face. It was empty.
"You only had to ask to get more. But the direct approach is rather inventive." I said pouring the water and headed back over to where she was suddenly silent, frowning. I set the cup down by her manacled wrists and then plopped down beside just outside her reach and began to examine my toes. Hmm. They could use a trim.
"You are not Hope." The girl shook her head, gulping down the water.
"Easy there. You will choke. And how did you know?"
The girl managed to sit up staring at me with unabashed interest.
"Before, I couldn't control my self. It was as if your powers had taken over me. I did everything you said. But now. It's puzzling. You look like Hope, even when you talk to the priest, I could sense your powers, but now."
"But now?" I repeated her favorite line to her.
"But now, you are more like Gabrielle but not Gabrielle. It's your eyes though."
"They are nice." My eyebrow went up. Nice?
"Well, thanks. I have only had them a short while. So, what is your name?"
"Seraphen." Just like that she now trusted me and was calm. Either a great judge of character or another wacko like the rest. I stuck out my hand.
"Chase what? What should I chase?"
Ugh. Even here that joke was old.
"Chase is my name."
She shook my hand and smiled.
One of the first rules of leaping, from what I could remember, was never let anyone know that you are not the person you leaped into. However, for me, desperate times called for desperate measures. No hologram Lexie in sight, stuck in an alternate reality with psychos and a freaking demi-goddess' thoughts running through my brain, I needed a friend and this Seraphen was just the one for the job.
A priestess had returned with several bundles of clothes. Apparently, the chief priest was still upset about not getting his hands bloody. I had to watch out for him. He could sense something was just not kosher with his goddess and I fervently wished to be gone by the time he figured it out. She set them carefully on the bed, eyes downcast and expression neutral.
"I will need the keys to her chains."
The priestess jumped as if slapped, her eyes were like doe's caught in the headlights of a SUV.
"But, High Priest Jerquin said.." Jerkin was his name? Oh, that was perfect.
"Listen, sweetie," I said wrapping my arm around her trembling shoulders. "Who is in charge here? Jerk..in..or me?"
She was near tears.
"Now go be a good little priestess and get me the key. Go on now." I shooed her out.
Seraphen was having an aploxey fit trying not to laugh out loud.
"Just can't get good help these days."
My friend couldn't contain herself any longer and howled.
Seraphen was a wealth of knowledge about her experiences with Hope and as she spoke of villagers being captured for an upcoming sacrifice, a plan was forming in my head. Hope choose to remain quiet but I could feel her pacing around the synapses biding her time. It was amazing how quickly I had adapted to this extreme personal invasion. Maybe it was the fact that I leaped into people's lives all the time, invading their space to help save their lives so Hope sticking around a bit was ironic justice. Then again, maybe I was thinking too much.
Giving up on Lexie for the moment, I whispered the plan to a wide-eyed Seraphen as I undid her chains, key courtesy of the trembling priestess who had a new bruise mark across her jaw. Yes, my plan better work, I thought furiously. Jerkin was dead meat.
"What is your name?" I asked the priestess as I changed into a dark green tunic, leather mini skirt and knee high boots that fit surprisingly too well. A blood red robe with black etching on it finished the outfit.
"Gemaco." The girl muttered to her feet. Seraphen cast me a look of displeasure as I lifted the girls quivering chin and looked deep into her eyes. Gemaco almost fainted.
"Did Jerkin do this to you, Gemaco? Because of me?"
The girl, who didn't look a day over fifteen swallowed several times then, squeaked yes. Carefully I traced the outline of the bruise.
"You stood up for me against him, didn't you. You suffered for me. I am your goddess." Gemaco gazed unfocused at my hypnotic tone. "For that, you will be rewarded. Gemeco. You have pleased me well. However, you still must prove yourself to me. This is what I want you to do. Okay?"
As I gave her instructions, Seraphen caught on to my intentions. Now freed from the chains, she knelt beside my knee and began to hum. Surprised, Gemaco glanced down at her.
"See? Even young Seraphen has returned to the fold. Now go, Gemaco, my priestess. Go do as I bid."
I felt a pang of guilt as Gemaco glided out of the chamber, eyes alive with the spirit of obedience, mindless in the cult of Dahok.
"I am going to stop this if it is the last thing I do." I promised out loud. Seraphen stood up, placing a caring hand on my shoulder.
"I was once like her, Chase. It. It will be hard, but you have to do it. And I will help you."
"Let's do it."
Inside my head, Hope was intrigued and remained quiet. Her presence was becoming more defined now and it bothered me a great deal. If she should try to take over at the pivotal time..
Nope. Got to remain positive and in control. I focused on the look of blind devotion in Gemaco's eyes and let that stir up my righteous anger as Seraphen and I entered the main hall.
Thirty pairs of eyes snapped up at me as I took my place behind the sacrificial alter that Jerkin had brought me back on. It remained sticky with blood. No flies though. How odd. Seraphen stood by my side waiting. I nodded at her.
"Bring in the prisoners!" She cried.
A group of peasants were marched in at sword point, their hands roped together, their faces terrified. Looks of fear and hatred were cast at me, along with one older woman's look of total surprise.
"Seraphen, Gabrielle!" she gasped, incredible blue eyes agog. A goon slapped her.
Calm. Remain Calm.
"That is Cyrene, Xena's mother!" Seraphen hissed through clenched teeth. She tugged the blood red robe tighter around her body. My own robe felt as if it were made of lead and weighed heavily upon my shoulders.
You can do this, came a ghostly whisper from inside my head. What? Hope was even on my side? I had to be doomed for sure now. Ack. Here comes Jerkin. No time for introspection now. The show must go on.
Jerkin arrived out of breath, his robe askew and blinking rapidly.
"What is go.." then he saw me and froze. I smiled benevolently at him.
"Ah, just the mortal I wanted to see. Come, High Priest. Come up here. I want you to witness this."
Soon the entire chamber was filled with all the followers of Dahok. About a hundred sorry looking, brainwashed villagers along with several power hungry lower priests that had to be Jerkin's aids. Gemaco had done her part well and the oil lamps and torches had been filled and lit, casting eerie shadows across the cave as well as putting out an enormous amount of heat. I was sweating under the robe myself.
The heavy wooden doors to the outside world were shut fast and locked and Gemaco came forward holding a white pillow in her hands. Lying on that pillow was a wicked looking steel knife with gemstones knotted in the leather handle. A cold chill came over me. People had been actually killed with this knife, all for the supposed pleasure of Dahok. Picking the knife up, I held it over my head, trying to hide my distaste under an expression of boredom.
Seraphen took a deep breath and cried out:
"Behold! The Dagger of Dahok."
The followers chanted the phrase. Moans and groans from the prisoners who believed they were going to die a horrible death.
"Behold. The Daughter of Dahok!"
"Behold. The Sacrifice!" And Seraphen pointed at Jerkin.
Gasps from the crowd relieved me. They never imagined this. Good. Just part of my plan.
I lowered the knife back on to the pillow and gazed at the shocked Jerkin.
"Come." Seraphen ordered. "The Daughter of Dahok awaits your blood."
Jerkin stared at me still unbelieving. Gemaco, now with the upper hand gestured at the goons who quickly grabbed Jerkin, yanking him off his feet and after picking him up, dropped him hard on the stone alter. Hmm. They must not like him either. A thrill of anticipation rolled through my body as they tied Jerkins hand and legs to the corners of the altar, my hand twitching towards the knife. What the..? It wasn't Hope that time. Oh boy. That meant that I..nope. Not going there. Finally regaining his voice Jerquin gasped:
"My Goddess. What is the meaning of this?"
"I was born of blood. I require blood to christen my way into the outside world. Your blood. The one who brought me back. FOR YOUR OWN NEFERIOUS PURPOSES!"
Like a bad B movie, everyone in the chamber gasped. I almost laughed out loud as I realized the power I had over these people. Like the heady smell of lush roses, overwhelming my senses, the pulse of the lifeblood in these people. The thin line of life and death that I alone could snap in an instant. The tingling of hairs on my skin and.
"Feels good, doesn't it." Came a low masculine voice behind me. It was Ares.
"Holding life and death in your hands like that. The seductive power of godhood. Amazing stuff, eh, Hope?" He stepped around a stunned Gemaco and gazed at the doubly frightened prisoners. He waved at Cyrene. "Hey, Cyrene. Too bad Xena isn't here, right?"
"What do you want, Ares. I am right in the midd·"
"Of a sacrifice. I know. But, you see, I made a promise."
"A promise." I repeated dumbly. This kink was not good for my plans.
"Yeah. High Priest Jerk..In, came to me wanting to get you back. That way, he could gain his own brand of power and rule when you were done in by your mom and the lovely Xena who takes after her lovely mother, don't you think?" Cyrene spit at him. Oh, I liked her. He just chuckled.
"And then turn all your followers into following me, the god of War. However, Xena, picked a fine time to go follow that little irritating blonde around the sub continent searching for" He waggled his fingers. "Quote 'Peace and Love' and all that crap."
"So," I drawled, stalling for time as I glanced up at the huge lamp flame, all getting growing higher and dangerously close to the old tapestries hanging along the walls. "You decided to help bring me back then help kill me because you just want a few more mindless worshippers. What is the matter, Ares? Times not so good? You in your Twilight years or something?"
I barely managed to dart a fire bolt which exploded behind me, showering rock debris all over the cavern. Oh my. Fire bolts?
"Must have hit a nerve, eh?" I goaded. A glance at Seraphen and the wall and she caught on quick, slipping silently away in the dust cloud.
"Ares, help me!" squawked Jerkin.
The look of disgust on Ares face actually made me chuckle. The acolytes and prisoners were getting edgy from the stifling heat building up in the chamber and the crackling power emanating from the god of war. Hope was chuckling too and it gave me courage.
"Scrapping the bottom of the barrel there, huh?"
"Hardy har har, Hope. Which reminds me. I did some checking around. It seems my wonderful brother, Hercules, banished Dahok from the Earth some time ago. Therefore, you should not have been able to be brought back."
"Like a bad dinar, I keep popping up." Yikes. That came straight from Hope. My tenacious hold on my personality was deteriorating quickly. Hope was angry now and wanted out. Come on, Seraphen. Hurry up. Hope began to demand attention.
"You never thought I would come back, and when I did, you tried to get on my side just in case Dahok did have a window back to the world. You played both ends in the middle..Again!"
Ares looked at me with some confusion. It was getting too hot to breathe in here and sweat rolled off my face, dripping onto the red robe. Meanwhile, Jerkin was struggling to get free as Seraphen sneaked up behind one of the oil lamps. Good.
"Ares!" screamed Jerkin. Rolling his eyes, Ares lifted his hand and a brilliant fireball enveloped Jerkin, frying him to powder in just second. I recoiled, horrified, choking on the smell of burnt flesh and ozone. People screamed.
"Hey, I was just keeping my word. I set him free." And he smiled.
"NOW!" I shouted diving for cover behind the altar as Seraphen kicked the lamp stand, sending boiling fiery oil onto the floor. The acolytes scattered, several of their robes catching on fire. Gemaco realized what Seraphen was trying to do. Quickly, she grabbed the knife from the pillow, scaring me to death, then I felt Hope reaching out and gently planting a suggestion in Gemaco's open mind, and then Gemaco began to cut the prisoners free while on the other end of the cavern, Ares began to laugh. Not a very pleasant sound.
"You sure know how to throw a party, Hope. Seems you are like your mother, a goody two shoes. I cannot have that you know. One irritating blond is enough for a lifetime. Say hello to your dad for me!"
Rapid concussions deafened me as Ares' fire bolts began to demolish the altar. I had no place to run! Peering through the dust and debris, I saw that Seraphen and Gemaco had freed the prisoners and were herding them towards the one door I did not have her lock. The rest of the followers were running around panicked, turning on each other. My adrenaline was pumping too much to be sickened by the violence as I struggled to stay alive.
Seraphen caught me eye as she stopped in the doorway, worried. She started back in.
"NO! GO ON!" I yelled. Seraphen didn't have a chance to move when a section of the roof started to collapse on top of her.
"NOOOO!" a scream was ripped from my throat.
What happened next was a bit hazy. Somehow, I could feel the falling stones in my hand, pushing them away from Seraphen, everything in slow motion, incredible, pulsating power coursing through my body, willing the rock to stop, seeing it do my bidding and watching in a world of silence as Seraphen escaped out the door, and the rocks exploded into dust.
I felt myself being thrown across the room, hitting the wall hard. Stunned, I shook my head, unable to focus due to the fire, smoke and clouds of dust filling the chamber. What the heck just happened. Strong hands gripped the front of my robe, jerking me to my feet, facing a very angry god of war.
"You just couldn't stay dead, could you." He sighed, almost sadly.
Fuzzily, I watched his hand begin to glow as he pulled it back, ready to hit me.
I was limp, unable to move, totally worn out by Hope's takeover of my body for those brief seconds, using her full powers to save Seraphen. Thanks, Hope, I thought weakly. No, thank you, she whispered softly, then was gone from my head. Just like that. Totally gone. Oh my heavens, I had never felt so totally alone in my life. Or what was left of it.
Ares hesitated, looking puzzled.
"What? Who are you?" he asked. "Well, doesn't matter. You are history."
I began to laugh hysterically. History. Oh boy, that was funny.
A muffled whomp and he let me go, collapsing at my feet.
"Come on, we have to get out of here!"
I blinked, focusing on a vaguely familiar face. It was Cyrene! A brink lay beside Ares unconscious body. She had hit him with it, saving me. Wow. Xena's mother grabbed my arm and began to pull me towards a smoky hallway.
"Wait!" I cried pulling back. Ares was beginning to groan. Despite trying to kill me, I could not leave him here. Supposedly a god, he still might not make it out alive and he might just be the ticket for me to go home if I could convince him I did not belong here.
"We can't leave him!"
Cyrene frowned but helped me drag the heavy man to his feet. He swayed unsteadily. The smoke and fire was out of control, bearing down on us. Stumbling along, somehow we made it out into blinding sunlight just as an explosion wracked the cave behind us and we were thrown into the air.
Air. Fresh air. Cool breeze. Soft, fragrant grass beneath me. Aching bones and pounding headache. Groaning, I sat up, blinking away dust and ash from my eyes. What a sight greeted me. Fifty yards away, smoke billowed from rubble at the face of a small hill, the outside of the caverns where I had just been. People were meandering around looking dazed and confused, the survivors of the cult without their leader.
'You are awake!" Cyrene knelt down beside me holding up a plump goatskin. Cautiously, I sipped then gulped at the clear cool water. I was so thirsty!
"Careful." Said Seraphen appearing at my side, grinning widely. As with Cyrene, she was covered in dust and smudges, her clothes torn and small areas burnt from flying ash. Thirst finally quenched, I breathed in deeply of the clean air, coughing the rock dust from my lungs. Cyrene kindly patted my back.
"Looks like the cult of Dahok is done now." Seraphen pointed to the few remaining acolytes.
"What will happen to them?" I asked tiredly. Feeling oddly empty. I should be happy, I thought. True, the plan didn't go as I had planned due to Ares interference but the cult was finished.
Seraphen looked away, her eyes pained. I had forgotten that she had gone through a similar experience several years ago.
"They will either go home and try to rebuild their lives or .." she shrugged her shoulders. Cyrene capped the water skin with an audible thump and stood up, holding out a hand to me. I took it and was hauled to my feet with deceptive strength. Dizziness passed and I found my balance.
"They will have a hard road to follow, but I know their parents. Those kids will have love and acceptance. After all, a mother's love runs deep." Cyrene was not talking to me at that moment. More to her past and to Seraphen's than the present. A chill ran up my spine.
"I hate to bother you but where is Ares?" I looked around worriedly. Cyrene answered the question coolly.
"He came to his senses, told me we were stupid and popped out of here in a hurry."
"Crap, I need to talk to him."
"Don't worry." Explained Cyrene, clasping my hand. "He owes you. Now, we better gather everyone up and head back to Amphipolis."
"Okay, Cyrene. I will get them going. You and Chase can go ahead."
"Yep. That is her name."
Cyrene glanced at me surprised. "I thought.."
I did not find out what she though for a flicker of light caught my attention and a broad smile hurt my face as I recognized Lexie standing just near the edge of the woods.
"I will be right back. I have to go see a woman about a horse."
Cyrene thought I was nuts but didn't try to stop me as I limped over to the trees, somehow I had wrenched my knee during the escape. But I put that all aside as the hologram form of Lexie grinned back at me!
"Lexie, good heavens, where have you been?"
"Chase, you are a sight for sore eyes! Wow. You won't believe what has been going on!"
I stared at her. Her hologram was static, as if not enough power was being channeled to the bios chamber. Lexie looked tired, worn and yet terribly excited.
"Really? Well, have I got something to tell you!"
"Wait, me first. It took Ziggy forever to find you! You are over 2,000 years in the past. Somehow, you were drawn out of the Vortex into an unknown area of the Time Nexus. But here is the kicker; you were not sent here to be a fixer. The woman you leaped into is named Hope was the fixer."
"What? No way. Hope.."
"While in your body, she managed to stop a secret attack on the complex by an underground terrorist group who were after Ziggy. She is a hero. And the best thing of all is, and Ziggy said I could tell you, she is your ancestor! Ziggy calculated that the odds of you two changing places was over twelve billion to one and the kicker is that you share exacting brain patterns therefore, she could understand what was going on and how to defeat the terrorist! Al is so happy."
I sank to my knees totally stunned. As Lexie rambled on about Hope's success, I couldn't help but feel a bit jealous. I was the fixer. Hope was evil. Wasn't she? Well, maybe not. I could feel her emotions and thoughts; they had slowly given way from evil to caring. So why should I be upset? She saved the complex. She saved Lexie and Al and Ziggy. And she was my ancestor. Oh man. Now that scared me good. Something Lexie said caught my attention.
"What did you say?
"I said," Lexie frowned at me like a teacher being interrupted by a churlish pupil. "That I hope you didn't get into too much trouble. It has only been a few minutes since you leaped."
I glanced over at the smoking ruins of the cavern.
"Nope, no trouble at all, just got caught in a dust storm. And..Wait, what do you mean a few minutes? It has been at least a day for me! Dang it, I was going crazy with out you around. I was lost, scared and since when do I read Greek?"
Lexie took a step back at my vehemence.
"Calm down, Chase. Getting angry won't help matters."
"Help matters? What do you mean by that?" I was now on my feet stomping around as well as one could with a sore knee.
"You read Greek because you were taught by your grandmother, Mel, along with many other languages." Lexie tried to placate me. "You have a degree in archeology from North Carolina, influenced by your other grandmother, Janice."
A small prickling at the base of my skull at the mention of Mel and Janice. While I did not remember faces, I did vaguely remember feelings. Feelings of excitement, happiness and discovery. Of warm hugs, ice tea and old felt fedora too big for my young head.
"Why are you telling me this now, Lexie?"
"Ziggy correlated that you are a direct descendent of Gabrielle, the Bard of Potadia, and Xena of Amphipolis."
"Gabrielle is Hope's mother and Xena is her best friend."
"How did you.."
"I may not remember my past, but I do have a nose for trouble. Cyrene, Xena's mom, just saved me from a cave in." She did not need to know all the details·yet.
"Oh, Chase. I don't know if that was good or not."
"Go ask Ziggy. He seems to know all the answers now."
"I will. But first, since you are descended from them, and out of the time loop of your age, you will be able to traverse the ancestral time line of Gabrielle and Xena. What an opportunity! Your grandmothers are ecstatic!"
She was too happy, only acted this way when she had something to hide. I had known Lexie for only she knew how long, but I could read her body language and this was not going to be pleasant, possibly for me.
"Get to the point, Lexie."
Lexie stood her full height and in her best professional voice said:
"Chase, you are out of Ziggy's influence in the time line. There is no way he can tell when you will return home. If ever."
The ground was hard under my rump as I sat down abruptly. Not return home? Ever? A flickering form settled next to me. Lexie was tearing up. All professionalism gone and just a good friend, two thousand years and eight thousand miles away.
"Chase, I am so sorry. Your parents don't know yet. Just your grandmothers. They told me to tell you that they love you."
"Can, can I see them?" I knew that under dire circumstances, protocols were left behind and relatives could enter the holographic chamber and take the Helper's place for just a few moments. Then the synaptic pathways would break down. Something about not being trained or having the Nexus chip implanted in the Helper's brain.
"Not enough time, Chase, I only have a few more minutes. Listen carefully, listen good. Ziggy thinks you will be leaping along your family line, at times when intervention is needed. He doesn't know, however, if we will be able to contact you. Right now, Hope is using all her powers to keep the Nexus stable enough for me to talk with you. Once the line is closed, it cannot be re-opened.."
"But why?" I was crying openly now.
"Doesn't matter now. Just listen. You are not alone. We will always be thinking of you. Remember Hope is forever here now too. She cannot return home either. You are not alone. Be smart. Follow your training. Your memory may be Swiss cheese, but Ziggy thinks the closer you are to the later ancestors, the more you will remember. Janice and Mel want you to leave scrolls about your adventures if you can. They will have excavations going on all over Greece keeping an eye out. They said to write it in the secret language. That you would remember it." She began to phase in and out of focus.
"Don't leave me!" I gasped, grabbing for her. My hands, of course, passed right through.
"Chase." She groaned. "One more thing. From now on, you will be linked with Xena and Gabrielle and their children forever. Be yourself. We all love you.." and she faded without another word.
It took several minutes before I felt together enough to head back into the open. Numb, empty, lost. Yet, deep inside, I felt a slight thrill. Adventure. No net. Sure, I was terrified but each step I took towards Cyrene, the mother of Xena, my ancestress, that feeling dissipated. In it's stead, excitement. Wow. To meet all my relatives. To help them. I knew I would return home one day. I would! But for now, it was time to learn more about Cyrene. She glanced up at me from across the way and waved. As I raised my hand, movement on my left made me turn.
Cold, burning, sharp pain. I stared up at Gemaco, her face flushed with fury, from my position on the ground.
"You are not Hope. You tricked me!" she ranted, waving the sacrificial knife, deep red blood gleaming along its long shaft. Blood? Something wet and warm met my fingers as I clutched my stomach in agony. Oh no. She had stabbed me! Screams, blurring forms, Cyrene and Seraphen, their faces shocked, worried. The pain too much. I could not breathe. Oh, I am dying. No. NO. and just as the world began to darken, there was a flash and··
Cold. Hard. Stone. Ugh. Everything hurt. I sat up slowly in shock. Where. What. The last thing I remembered was staring up into a woman's face. A familiar face. Cyane? Cayanne, no. Cyrene. Now, who was Cyrene? I glanced about me. A stone room with broken pillars, a man with long dark hair staring up at me with such a look of awe, a young girl in a skimpy leather outfit with a similar expression on her face and another man, tall, sort of goofy looking but with kindness as he reached out and touched the face of the person next to me. Stiffly, I turned my head to look just as a ray of sun broke through holes in the roof and shone down upon the burnished blonde hair of my grandmother Janice, no wait. Not Janice. She just looked like a young Janice in the pictures I had seen in her house. This woman was young, gazing up at me with the greenest eyes I had ever seen, such depths in those eyes. Such love. Oh gods, it was Gabrielle. I knew that deep inside as well as who I had leaped in. Xena. I was now Xena. Gabrielle gazed at me.
"We will always be together. Forever."
A thrill ran up my spine. Never truer words were spoken. And I said in perfect truthfulness,
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