Legal disclaimer: Xena and Gabrielle belong to Renaissance Pictures and MCA/Universal studios, the concept of immortality belongs to Highlander that belongs to Davis/Panzer Productions. Rickie Gardner and Emil Holt belong to Redhawk. Mustang is a registered trademark of Ford Motor Company. The rest belongs to me.
Subtext/sexual/violence disclaimer: There is always a chance of subtext. Xena and Rickie are lovers, but I've concentrated more on the story than on depicted lovemaking. Since this is going to be partly a warlord/slave story, I should tell that there are chains and stuff like that involved. When guns and swords are involved there's always a chance of violence.
Timeline/continuity disclaimer: This story takes place some time after the events in 'Bloodlust'. This story is an addition to Redhawk's Infinity series.
Thanks: To Garnet for beta reading the story, Redhawk for a great concept and Bat Morda, who's great story, 'Binds That Tie' inspired me to write this story.
Constructive criticism is always welcome and can be sent to yours truly.
"I can't believe that I let you talk me into taking you along", detective Emil Holt said to tall, raven-haired woman next to him. "Boss will have my ass for breakfast if he finds out."
Xena G. Amphipolous grinned at the thought then she took a glance at the young honey-haired woman behind her, who was also grinning. I can't believe that I let her talk me into taking her with me.
"I go where you go", Rickie Gardner said as if she had read the older woman's thoughts.
"Just remember to stay close to me", Xena said to her. She adjusted the gun holster under her leather jacket.
"And you remember that you are here strictly as observers. I don't want any bullshit heroics. My situation is sticky as it is." Holt reminded them both.
"Just keep in mind that I'm the only one who has the slightest chance to get that kid to surrender without unnecessary violence", Xena said. "I know him. He trusts me." The immortal thought about the kid in question. Deshane Lewis was one of those lucky ones who had got into the Second Chance program. It was an experimental rehabilitation program for young first time felons. Instead of getting convicted they got a chance to earn their living by working for voluntary employers. Deshane had been handed to Xena after robbing a gas station. Xena had handed him some daily errands her P.I. office, like getting stationery and stuff. She also had use for an extra pair of eyes and ears on the street. It had took a while but eventually a trust had grown between the immortal P.I. and the fifteen year old street kid.
Today that trust would be put in a test. A grocery store had been robbed earlier today and the storekeeper had been shot during the robbery. The descriptions of the suspect seemed to match with Deshane who was now hiding in an abandoned warehouse, surrounded by the police. Xena cursed herself that she had not got in touch with him before the police. Alone she might have got the kid to surrender himself to the police and this thing could have been straightened out. Somewhere inside Xena knew that Deshane wasn't the one that the police should be looking for. She knew him that well. Or did she after all? Whatever the answer was, it didn't change the fact that Deshane was now surrounded by the Portland's finest and feeling threatened therefore being dangerous.
"Let me try to get to him first", Xena said to Emil. "You know he can't harm me." She reminded the detective about her gift of immortality that had been given to her over two millennia ago.
"Yeah, I know", Holt grunted. He was one of the Watchers who had dedicated their life to follow the encounters of the immortals walking among them.
Xena rose behind the wooden crate and took the first paces towards the warehouse door. She stopped when she heard the familiar footsteps behind her.
"You'll stay here Rickie", the dark-haired woman said and turned to look at her young lover. "You'll be safer here with Emil."
The redhead was going to object but chose to stay silent when she caught the look on the older woman's face. Rickie sat down looking offended.
"Look Rickie, I hate to leave you behind too but I can't guarantee your safety once we are inside." Xena tried to conciliate. "I couldn't forgive myself if something happened to you."
"I know that, love", Rickie yielded and gave a smile. "Just try to be careful and please come back safely."
"Don't I always?" Xena went to her lover and gave a quick kiss to her.
Now Xena started her approach towards the dark warehouse, enlightened only by the pale moonlight. She moved slowly and made sure that she was in the open all the time.
"Deshane, this is Xena! I know you can hear me! Listen, I'm coming in so that we can talk!" Xena shouted, walking peacefully and keeping her hands on her side. "I don't know if you can see me or not but I'm taking my gun and putting it on the ground!" She kept talking and took her gun slowly from the breast pocket of her jacket, leaving the one in the holster in tact. She put the gun slowly on the ground. "See, I'm unarmed now! Don't shoot me, I'm coming in!"
The raven-haired immortal walked slowly to the small door on the side of the warehouse and turned the handle. The door was unlocked. She stepped slowly inside and let her eyes adjust to the darkness. The warehouse was more spacious than it appeared from the outside. It consisted of one large area with large cargo doors on one end and a couple of windowed offices on the other. Pillars that rose evenly from the floor and connected with the rafters supported the roof. Boxes and crates occupied the dirty concrete floor. The moon cast it's rays through the dirty, partly broken windows revealing the dust that was floating in the air.
"Deshane, where are you?" Xena asked, not getting a response. She thought about the whole situation. Things didn't look good for the young Afro-American. Xena had also seen the recording of the surveillance camera and although the picture was blurry, it resembled the young man that was now being hunted down to this secluded warehouse. Xena wondered if Deshane should have been sent to prison in the first place. Would any of this have happened? On the other hand, everybody deserved a second chance. She of all knew that.
"Deshane, please come out so that we can sort this out", the raven-haired immortal pleaded. She heard footsteps from behind and she turned slowly to face the young man who was aiming a gun at her. "You don't have to do that. I don't want to harm you", Xena said to him.
"No way! We both know that if I give in, they just put me in jail and throw away the key! Case closed!" Xena could see the hatred from the brown eyes as Deshane said those words.
"Well, did you do it then?" Xena asked the obvious question.
"NO! I wasn't even close to that store when it happened", Deshane answered, peering from side to side.
"Do you have an alibi?"
"No, I was just hangin' out on the street. Probably be busted right now if I hadn't seen the announcement on TV." The young man laughed nervously.
"Look, I can find out who's really behind all this but it will be a lot easier if I know that you're not somewhere out there getting yourself hurt or maybe even killed", Xena tried to convince the desperate kid.
"No! There's no way I'm going to the slammer!" Deshane adjusted his aim. "You're my ticket outta this friggin' warehouse." The gun was slightly shaking in his hand.
Xena's pupils narrowed. She could have easily disarmed the kid but she didn't want to do it that way. She really wanted to earn this kid's trust and attacking him wouldn't help in that. Instead she chose to play it with his terms.
"Okay. What are you going to do with me?" The immortal asked.
"First we will get to your wheels and get some distance between us and the cops", Deshane answered. "Don't worry. I won't hurt you if you don't try anything stupid. I kinda like you."
Strange way to show it,Xena thought when she turned around and Deshane placed the gun on her temple. She was glad that he didn't try to search her for additional weapons. She could still feel the assuring weight of the Walther P99 under her armpit. They both proceeded slowly to the door.
"Don't shoot! We are both coming out! He's aiming a gun at me!" Xena shouted and she could have sworn that she could hear Holt swearing aloud.
Xena pushed the door slowly open and they took the first steps out. At least a half a dozen guns and rifles were aimed at them.
"Listen, pigs! One wrong move and the lady gets it!" Deshane shouted. "We are taking her car and don't even think of following us!"
They started moving slowly towards Xena's Mustang that was parked behind the crates. Xena looked at Holt and she could see him clenching his teeth. One thing she couldn't see, was Rickie. She wasn't anywhere near to Holt and Xena cursed him for not keeping an better eye on her. They were now only about ten feet away from the Mustang and in order to get there they had to walk between two piles of crates.
Just when they had almost got through the narrow alley, things started to happen. From the corner of her eye Xena could see a flash of reddish gold hair and then a thump as the young woman jumped on them with her full weight. Deshane's gun went off right next to Xena's ear and after a bright flash everything went black.
The first thing that Xena registered was the fresh and humid smell of vegetation. The singing of a bird brought her attention to her surroundings. She opened her eyes slowly and that confirmed what her other senses had told her. She wasn't in Portland anymore. She was lying on underbrush in a small forest. The sun shined brightly from the blue sky.
Xena rose slowly to a sitting position while her mind tried figure out what had happened to her. Last thing she remembered was that she and Deshane had been walking to her car and Rickie had tried to get Deshane. Then a shot and a flash. Then nothing.
Nothing made sense. Dying was out of the question. If she had got hurt she should be in a hospital, not in a forest in a middle of nowhere. What the fuck has happened to me, and where the hell is everybody? Xena asked herself. She pinched her arm to find out whether she was dreaming but the pain told her that she was awake, wherever she was.
Xena felt her temple to find out if there were any injuries from the gunshot but there wasn't a single wound in her head. In fact, she felt great. Otherwise that would have been good news but now she had no idea what had happened to her. If this is someone's idea of a good joke, I'm going to make sure that the favor gets returned, she thought angrily.
The immortal stood up to get a better view of her surroundings. In one direction she could see a narrow dirt road and a river. Xena walked to the road and looked around. The road seemed to follow the riverbed. There was something strangely familiar about this river but she couldn't figure out what. It was like a deja vu. She also felt that she should head upriver although she couldn't reason that either. I suppose that direction is as good as any, she thought when she started walking.
Xena had walked an hour without seeing any traces of civilization. The road was the only sign of human touch here. She had taken time to study the trails on the road. It had been used recently and from the amount of trails, quite frequently. One thing that surprised her was that there wasn't any tire tracks. Only footprints and hoof prints along with wheel tracks. Xena wondered if she was on a riding track of some sort. If that was the case, she should hit a farm or something sooner or later.
Xena looked at the crystal clear water flowing lazily on the bed. The river kept bothering her. There was something about that river. Something very obvious. The fact that she couldn't figure it out frustrated her.
Her thoughts were distracted when two men came out from the bushes and surrounded her. They were wearing strange clothes and both were waving swords.
"Well, well, well, what do we have here?" The other man said viciously.
"Looks like a damsel all by herself", the other complied.
Xena noticed that both men were speaking Greek. Ancient Greek to be precise, she thought. Their clothing seemed to match their expression. Well, if this is a practical joke, someone has really put some effort in it.
"Haa haa, very funny. Who sent you? Emil?" Xena asked in English. She really wasn't in the mood for this.
"What is she saying?" The other man asked, still speaking in Greek.
"Who cares, lets take her", the other answered in same language.
Both men started to advance on the raven-haired woman and she realized that their intentions were not good. Xena moved to a more defensive position.
"I'd think twice if I were you", she said, this time in Greek accompanied by a feral grin.
"A feisty one, eh? Makes it more enjoyable", the other thug said, still closing on the immortal.
The thugs didn't seem to be any experts with swords but Xena didn't want to take any chances with them so she pulled her Walther. Surprisingly enough, the gun seemed not to have any effect on her attackers. "I'll shoot if you don't back off", she warned.
"With what? I don't see any bow", the other thug laughed. He moved one step closer.
A loud bang broke the silence as Xena pulled the trigger and the Walther P99 released one of its lethal slugs. The attacker was thrown a couple of feet backward from the impact as the bullet hit his arm and sent his sword flying. Xena turned her attention to the other attacker who had dropped his sword and was now covering his ears with his hands and looking at his more misfortunate comrade. He froze from horror as the raven-haired woman grabbed his collar and held her gun under his jaw.
"Now I know you! You're Xena!" He said horrified.
"And now, when we got that out of the way, you can tell me who the fuck are you and where the hell are we?"
"M- my name is Miklios", the man stammered.
"I don't know where this 'Hell' is but we are about a candlemark's walk from Amphipolis."
Amphip-, "Are you trying to pull my leg?" Xena tightened her grip.
"N- no! I swear I'm telling the truth! Please don't kill me!" He begged.
Xena let him go slowly. He stumbled quickly to his companion and they both retreated from the scene. Xena didn't pay much attention to that. She was too confused at the moment. Amphipolis. That one word filled her mind. What the hell had happened to her? She had gone unconscious in 20th century Portland and awakened in what appeared to be ancient Greece. Or was she really awake? Maybe she was only awake in her subconscious and her body was still lying lifelessly on that wet concrete. That thought brought another concern to her mind. Oh my god, Rickie! Was she all right? Was she desperately waiting her to come around? She had to get back to her. But how?
"Hello, Xena. How's the head-hunting business?" A voice that Xena could still recognize after two millennia brought her back from her thoughts. She turned to face the source of the voice.
"Caesar", she spat the name. "What is going on here? I want some answers and I want them now!" The blue eyes flashed from hatred.
The emperor smiled arrogantly. "This all is happening in your head, Xena. Even I am just a product of your subconscious."
"Well that's just great! I'm stuck in my own mind with you", Xena sighed.
"Think of it this way", Caesar said. "I could be Joxer."
"That's a great comfort", Xena said sarcastically. "How do I get back?" She asked.
"Uh uh. That would be too easy, wouldn't it?" Caesar smiled to her.
"Tell me!" Xena grabbed his cloak.
"Eager to get back to that brat of yours, eh?" Caesar asked. "Well, I suppose I could give you a little hint. The answer is in your head."
"What kind of hint is that?" Xena asked furiously. "Tell me or I make you wish that you had told me earlier!"
"Sorry, that's all you get", Caesar answered. "Look at the time! Gotta run. Ta ta." The emperor vanished in thin air.
In my head. What's that supposed to mean? Xena thought. She shook her head couple of times to clear her thoughts. There were too many questions in the air right now. She needed to get some answers and she had an idea where she might find them. A candlemark's walk, eh, she thought and started walking.
Xena brushed the branches away to get a better view. It was Amphipolis all right, but that was all that there was in common to the town that had brought her up. The town was heavily fortified and soldiers were everywhere over the town perimeters. Citizens were nowhere in sight. The dark immortal sat down to think about what she just had seen. Someone had taken possession of her hometown. Who was that and if this was ancient Greece, where was the Xena of this time? Did she even exist here? Did Gabrielle exist here? Those were the most important questions going around her head. She took another glance at the town and made out a familiar roof. She'd have to wait until dark.
The pale moon enlightened Xena's path as she proceeded pass the sentries and over the town wall. She had tried to sleep while she had been waiting the sun go down but her thoughts had kept her awake. She was still trying to understand the whole situation. Her thoughts had been also bouncing with two names, Rickie and Gabrielle. The first she longed, the other she was both anxious and afraid of meeting. What if Xena and Gabrielle were not lovers in this world? What if Gabrielle lived an ordinary peasant girl's life in her home village without ever knowing the raven-haired warrior? What would happen if she ran into her beloved bard? Some of those questions would hopefully get answered when she would reach her target.
Xena snug quietly behind the inn. The immortal was relieved to find that her mother's home and profession was the same. She tried the back door and found it unlocked. She opened the door slowly and stepped inside. There was her mother sitting by the kitchen table, doing her evening chores, unaware that she was being watched.
"Hello, mother", Xena said. The older woman twitched and dropped the bowl that she had been holding in her hands. Cyrene turned to look at her and Xena saw something in her mother's eyes that she never had seen - fear.
"G- good evening, princess," Cyrene stammered. "How may I be at your service?"
The fear was answered with bewilderment. Cyrene, her own mother was calling her princess. "Cyrene, why are you calling me princess?" She asked, dumbfounded.
"W- wasn't that how you wanted to be called?" Now it was Cyrene's turn to be a bit bewildered.
Xena didn't answer. A very unpleasant thought came into her mind. It can't be... She was shook from her thoughts when she heard noise from the dining hall.
"Cyrene, where are you?" A demanding voice that Xena knew better than any else said. "I want service for me and my men!"
Cyrene looked at the doorway and then at the immortal, even more dumbfounded. "If that's my daughter, then who are you?" She asked.
Xena gave a pleading look to her. "I promise to explain you all, just don't turn me in", she whispered.
"Are you coming or do I have to come and drag you here?" The voice from the dining hall said.
Cyrene looked at the immortal for a glimpse, like she was debating with herself. "Wait here and don't make a sound", she finally said and then she walked through the curtain.
Xena followed her to the doorway and peeked behind the curtain. There she was, like a mirror image of her. Xena, the warrior princess, in her full warlord armor. The dark leathers gleamed in the candle light. Her sword was neatly in its scabbard by her waist, along with the chakram. The ruthless look in the warlord's eyes left little under supposition. This Xena was a cold-blooded warrior.
The immortal didn't know what shocked her more, the seeing of her counterpart or the seeing of her companion. There was Callisto right by the warrior princess' side. The blonde warrior's manic grin was distinguishable. Among the two women were three male soldiers, which Xena presumed to be her counterpart's lieutenants.
They all seated at a round table. The warrior princess gave a disapproving look to the older woman who was carrying a tray with a carafe of port and five mugs on it.
"Are you getting deaf in your old days, Cyrene or are you just plain slow?" Xena asked her mother sarcastically.
"No, princess. I was just out back", Cyrene said timidly as she handed the mugs and poured some port in them.
"The people of Amphipolis are under my rule and protection and reciprocally I expect obedience and efficiency of them. Isn't that right, Callisto?" The warlord asked the woman sitting next to her.
"Absolutely right, my princess", Callisto said flatteringly. "They need to know who's in charge."
Behind the curtain, the immortal didn't know whether she wanted to throw up or charge into the hall and kill her counterpart for molesting the old woman like that. Even she had had respect towards her mother during her warlord days. This Xena seemed to treat her mother like dirt. She breathed deep to cool off. Revealing herself at the particular moment would be foolish. She needed to know more.
"Any word from our scouts that we sent to the Amazons?" The warrior princess asked one of her lieutenants.
"No, princess. We don't expect them back until dawn."
"Sent them over to me as soon as they get here. I need those numbers of the Amazon forces", Xena said.
"Very well, princess", the lieutenant answered.
"Only a couple of days more and we can commence the campaign against the Amazons, Xena", Callisto said fanatically to the raven-haired woman next to her.
"Yes, Callisto", Xena answered. "Only a couple of days and we will take care once and for all of Velaska and her Amazons."
Velaska! Velaska is in the lead of the Amazons? The immortal Xena thought behind the curtain. Just when she had thought things were bad, they just got worse. What about Ephiny? And where the hell is Gabrielle? Is she still in Poteidaia?
They all finished their drinks and rose. Suddenly, one of the men headed towards the kitchen where the immortal was hiding. Cyrene almost trop her tray when she realized that. Xena readied quietly her Walther. Damn, I wish I had got a silencer on this. Just when the man was right behind the curtain, the words of the warrior princess stopped him.
"Where do you think you're going?" She asked.
"I thought I'd get a few skins of wine from the back, princess," he answered.
"We have no time for drinking, Skiros", Xena said curtly.
"Very well, princess." Skiros yielded and joined the others.
As soon as the party had left the inn, Cyrene bent down and threw up on the floor. The immortal went to her and put her hand on her shoulder. The older woman twitched from Xena's touch and she pulled her hand away.
"I'm sorry", Cyrene said. "It's just that you look so much my daughter even that I know now that you're not her." She managed to put a smile on her face.
"Thanks for not turning me in." Xena smiled thankfully.
"I need to sit down", the older woman said. "I've had enough surprises for the night."
Xena helped her to a chair and poured some water to a mug. Cyrene accepted the drink eagerly. After she had finished the drink she looked at the immortal.
"You and my daughter are two of a kind but yet you are so different from each other. Where do you come from?" Cyrene asked.
"It's a long story", Xena said.
"Don't' worry, I have time", Cyrene laughed.
"Okay, I'll tell you how I got here if you let me in to the situation here", Xena offered.
"What about Hercules?" Xena asked. "Hasn't he tried to stop her." They had been talking a couple of hours now. Xena had told her story to Cyrene who had been nothing less than amazed at it. Now the older woman was explaining the current situation.
"He tried once." Cyrene sighed. "Xena killed him."
The immortal couldn't hide her shock. Hercules dead!
"With Hercules dead, no-one has had the courage to rise against her", Cyrene continued.
"Does she give you a hard time, then?" Xena changed the subject.
"Pretty hard", the older woman answered. "But I got it pretty easy compared to that poor slave girl of hers."
"What slave girl?" Xena asked, feeling that she was not going to like the answer.
"A young peasant girl from Poteidaia", Cyrene said.
"What is her name?" The immortal asked frantically, fearing what the older woman would say.