Off to the Party
“Oh my God, you weren’t exaggerating. She really is a Demon. I thought that you were speaking metaphorically. Holy shit!” Willy’s eyes were still bulging.
“That means that you really were… that and you really did go to heaven and hell.” Clair was no better off than her sister.
“None of us wanted to believe that scroll. We thought that maybe Gabrielle had hallucinated or something. We just couldn’t believe that you really had died and all of that had happened to you.” Debora’s input was just as stunned as her sister’s had been.
Gabrielle looked at Xena and rolled her eyes a bit. “Kids they never listen.” Xena said as she shrugged her shoulders. “Well ladies…” She said to the sisters and anyone else that was listening. “… That was our friend Alti. She’s taken on a new look since the last time that we saw her… and she’s not yet finished. Those horns get a lot bigger and she’ll be growing wings anytime now. But she’s bad enough now.” She looked at Gabrielle again. All of her arguments against the plan that Gabrielle had hatched were now silent.
“You can’t always be there to protect me Xena. That’s why you trained me to defend myself. We have to have faith in each other.” Gabrielle said.
All that Xena could do was acquiesce; there was no other way to do this. “Gabrielle and I have a plan…and none of you are a direct part of it. What I would like you to do is to destroy this city and drop that Castle down on top of her head. But I want you to wait on the Castle until Gabrielle and I have both left the building or are both dead.” There were gasps of surprise and disbelief from the monitors and the bridge crew. Xena ignored them. “Can I assume that these trackers that Belle put into us can determine if we are dead or not?”
“They are capable of that yes.” Debora had collected her wits first. “They are accurate within a half hour or so.” Xena nodded but gave no verbal response.
“I’ll need a good sword.” Gabrielle said abruptly.
She had no shortage of offers, including Xena. She finally chose a Katana from one of the bridge crew. The Amazon was delighted to give the hero her sword. Gabrielle insisted on having a tracker attached to it.
“Your Fighters are ready.” Clair said once the fuss with the sword was done.
“We’re not going to need them. We’re going to need a shuttle… and a few other items.” Xena looked pointedly at Gabrielle.
“I’ll get what we need organized while you brief them on what we’re doing.” She said to Xena, she knew that was what her beloved wanted from her right now. “Clair could you have Captain Gellman meet me in the infirmary please?” She did not wait for a response she just left the room.
Once Gabrielle had left Xena turned to her granddaughters. “I know that this is a lot to take in. And believe me I know that the sight of that half Demon has you shaken a bit. But believe it or not this is what Gabrielle and I were expecting. Remember that we know Lucifer… personally and we have been in hell and we have seen and been Demons ourselves. There’s not much that we haven’t fought. So don’t let the looks of her shake your confidence. We can take her. We just have to do it the hard way.”
“We have a battle plan Xena. But what is it you want to do?” Willy asked.
“We need a shuttle, about fifty Marines and the stuff that Gabrielle is getting. Half of the Marines will be going into the Castle with Gabrielle and the other half will be staying with me and the shuttle. Gabrielle is going in to confront Alti personally and I will be going into a trance to enter the spirit world to confront Alti there. The Marines are there to try and keep us safe while we accomplish the tasks. What you do with the rest of the city and how you deploy…that’s up to you.” Xena had told her all that she was going to tell her… except for one thing. “Oh and one more thing Gabrielle doesn’t want any Amazons going with us. She doesn’t want to be responsible for one more drop of Amazon blood spilt for Alti. She was really happy when she found out that you all were going to stay on the ship or in Fighters.”
Her announcement caused a huge uproar on the bridges of the two ships. “Surely you must be joking Xena. It is the sworn duty of the Amazons to protect you both. You can’t leave us out of the battle.” Willy said.
“You aren’t being left out of the battle. You’re just not coming with us. Honestly you have enough to do without jumping into the fire with us. Gabrielle would rather not make it an order.” Xena could see more of an argument coming.
“We could ignore any order from her. She is technically not our Queen right now.” Clair said defiantly.
“Really Clair… do you want to push her buttons like that? She doesn’t make this request lightly and she is well aware of the danger that’s why she doesn’t want any Amazons along. Besides who knows what Alti can do with more Amazons within her grasp.” She was shaking her head. “I’m sorry but on this count I agree totally with Gabrielle.” Xena was done arguing. “Now if there is nothing else could you please send me the Marines that I need down to the shuttle bay?”
Despite her direct and very clear orders Xena and Gabrielle were met with at least a hundred Marines in the shuttle bay. “Colonel Quade I am not going to argue with you. I asked for fifty and fifty is all we are taking with us. End of discussion.” Xena was starting to get very annoyed.
“Well I’m sorry too ma’am but I have my orders. I was told that no fewer than a hundred to personally protect you two. And that ma’am is the end of the discussion.” He was a burly man with a chest the size of a barrel and a head that was designed to wear a helmet.
Xena was about to come unglued on the man but Gabrielle put a restraining hand on her partner’s chest and addressed the Colonel. “Look, Colonel Alti is only going to allow one shuttle to land. The other shuttle she will simply shoot out of the sky. We’re trying to save lives here. You need to listen to Xena.”
Xena didn’t wait for the stubborn man to respond. “We don’t have time to debate the issue. Load up the shuttle. If you want to come along and live to actually see battle you will want to fly with us.” Xena shook her head in disgust and turned and entered a shuttle. Gabrielle wasted no time following her. Fifty Marines piled in after her. The Colonel was not one of them. It was Gabrielle’s turn to shake her head as she watched the Colonel and fifty Marines start packing into another shuttle as the door to her shuttle closed.
“Did you get everything?” Xena asked her beloved. Gabrielle nodded. They were packed in pretty tightly so it was kind of hard to not be overheard but most or all of these men wouldn’t be returning to tell any tales later so she took the chance to ask Gabrielle what she really wanted to know. “Did you tell her?”
“Tell who… what?” Gabrielle feigned stupidity.
“Don’t be evasive dear; we don’t have time for it.” Xena pulled Gabrielle in closer so that she felt more secure about telling. Gabrielle didn’t like being overheard regardless of the circumstances.
“Yes I told her. I think that she knew… in her heart but I could tell that she was glad to hear it anyway. She was desperately in love with Hope and I think it did her heart good to know that Hope felt the same way.” Gabrielle had finally figured out how to interpret her body’s reactions to some people. Hope had loved Amy but her feelings for Sonya had been much deeper and stronger.
“Good, I’m glad that you were able to bring the woman some peace. Do you think that Hope would have stayed with her?” Xena was making idle conversation to keep her mind from the sinking feeling that the shuttle’s reentry into the atmosphere made in her stomach.
“She probably would have tried but Sonya could not have made her whole. Eventually she would have started looking again… which would have been sad for them both.” It was always something with her eldest. She silently prayed that her baby would eventually find peace and love as well as wholeness.
“Yah I can understand searching for that one person that makes you feel complete. It’s a real pain in the ass. But once you find them you never want to let go.” Xena was smiling at Gabrielle and she was smiling back. It was a small tender moment in time for them.
The shuttle had settled into a flight pattern and was flying below the clouds in route to the city. Its twin flew at its side. The surface of the planet was mostly barren rock with what amounted to large puddles of water scattered willy nilly over the landscape. Had someone taken the time as they had with Mars they might have some impressive lakes and possibly even a small sea, such was the abundance of water. But this was Alti’s planet and she cared for nothing but power and how to achieve it.
A warning shot from a plasma cannon exploded just off their bow and the ship rocked. They were too tightly packed for anyone to be thrown about but it felt very much like a ship on an ocean and Gabrielle quickly started stabbing her wrist. Xena saw the action and mouthed still at Gabrielle who simply rolled her eyes and tried not to turn green.
Suddenly without any further warning the other ship was struck by several blasts each from a different direction. It was disintegrated before it came near the ground. Their ship went on without any further disruption. Xena and Gabrielle were saddened by the loss but they could not be blamed for the Colonel’s refusal to listen. Their lack of blame did not deaden the pain that the loss caused.
Xena had them land the shuttle halfway down the long strip that led to the Castle. The Marines piled out and stood guard all around the ship. Xena and Gabrielle were left alone in the shuttle for a few moments. There were no words left to say except three little ones that they did not hesitate to say before they kissed each other and literally put their foreheads together for a long moment. They wished each other luck and Gabrielle exited the shuttle.
“Twenty-five of you come with me.” She did not wait for them to sort themselves before she started down the long roadway towards the Castle. The Marines hurried to overtake her but even when they did she stayed in the front.
Xena stood in the doorway for a minute watching Gabrielle disappear behind the broad backs of her would be defenders. She turned back into the shuttle and called over her shoulder. “Don’t let me be disturbed.” She shut the door and got to work.