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Teresa M Shafer - For books that kindle thought and ignite the imagination!
Chapter 17
Alti's Arrival
A couple of hours later her man Denton told her that she had a call. She was hoping that it was from Anise or Xena or even Dan. Any of them would have been preferable to the call that was coming in. Denton had said that the woman didn’t give her name, well not a real one anyway. She had only said that the Colonel was expecting her call. But the name that she had given was a dead giveaway… only one person would be that stupid or cleaver… sometimes with this one they were mutually inclusive. “Put it through.” The vid screen behind Gabrielle’s desk sputtered it snowed a bit and then it cleared to show Gabrielle a face from the past. She was a stately woman, with dark flowing hair and lunacy in her eyes and she wasn’t even fully facing the screen. She had turned her head to the side to look at another monitor. The woman slowly turned to fully face the screen and smiled. It was not a warm smile; it was the kind of smile that makes your skin crawl and it did make Gabrielle uncomfortable for a split second. She was dressed in black and brown leather and had a small whip the size of a riding crop in one hand. She was clearly assessing the woman that she saw in her vid screen and as she did she slapped the small many headed whip against her other palm. It had to have hurt her but she showed no signs of having felt anything.  
“You look like someone I used to know.” The woman said in a rough but silky voice. Gabrielle stayed mute. The woman chewed on the silence like a bull in the chute. “How far did you fall from the family tree I wonder?” The silence between them crackled. “Do you have nothing to say to me Colonel Rayne?” She took a step towards the screen.  
“I was just wondering if you just keep coming back or if you actually spat out a child somewhere along the way that I don’t know about.” Gabrielle goaded.  
The woman’s face lit up like a Christmas tree and true joy radiated from the smile that now graced it. She really was very beautiful when she wasn’t raving nuts. “So, we meet again Gabrielle; how utterly delightful!” She said cheerfully. 
Gabrielle crossed her arms across her chest and leaned on one leg; it was the classic spare me pose. She did not respond to the woman’s comment. Instead she said, “And while I’m asking questions, I just have to know Alti; General Zod, really? Watch much Superman lately?”
Alti actually looked a bit embarrassed by the question and for some reason deigned to answer her nemesis. “Yes well, my new associates don’t speak Greek or any other human language. Apparently they have difficulty with pronunciation. But they could say Zod. It’s a name. It works.” She said defensively.
“It’s pathetic is what it is.” Gabrielle continued to prod. 
Gabrielle’s remark hit a nerve and Alti responded by slapping the whip onto her hand so hard that it drew blood. She didn’t seem to notice; Gabrielle did but made no comment. “Speaking of pathetic where is Xena?” 
Gabrielle doesn’t want to tell Alti the truth right away. She can stall her a little longer with this type of banter. Alti always was a sucker for taunting games. “She’s taking care of my light work.”
Your light work, oh that’s right Colonel Rayne is the big dog in this Kennel isn’t she?” Gabrielle doesn’t answer her. Alti curled her lip into a feral smile. “Funny isn’t it, how your blood line seems to come up with all the great warriors and hers is spitting out cowards?” She shifted her weight into a posture that said top that one bitch.
Gabrielle shifted her weight into an offensive posture. She dropped her hands to her hips and leaned forward slightly. “Cowards, where do you get cowards?” Alti’s comment really was confusing to her.
 Alti laughed; it was not a happy sound. “Xena was the world’s greatest warrior! But then she met you… and you neutered her! Now her descendants are doomed to be born as peace loving cowards! Did you know that one of her descendants actually won the Nobel Peace Prize! And I can’t tell you how many of them have given their lives in sacrifice to fires, earthquakes, explosions or other crap just to save the lives of people that they don’t even know!” Alti had such a look of disgust on her face Gabrielle expected her to spit at the screen. “And all the while your descendants rise in power and strength and become some of the most feared and respected warriors of their time… like Colonel Rayne. It’s like you switched places or something. Is this what you had planned little Bard when you poisoned my Warrior Princess and stole her from me? You have to know that Xena’s soul still has that power that I want. What her descendants do or become does not affect that.” Alti actually looked like she expected an explanation.
Gabrielle didn’t even have to think about what Alti had said to give her an answer that is sure to set her fuse to burning. “I didn’t steal Xena. You don’t have to steal something that belongs to you Alti. Even you should know that.” Her words were delivered dryly as fact not fiction.
Alti screamed at the screen and threw her hands in the air. If they had been standing in the same room Alti’s hands would have sought out Gabrielle’s neck. Barring the ability to simply strangle the life from Gabrielle, Alti chose to bash her with more words. “You just wait you little shit! I’ll end your miserable life and your family’s as well!”
Gabrielle gave Alti another one of her patented you’re kidding right looks. “Alti really, have you been spending your down time watching old television?” This was not the reaction that Alti was expecting and it showed on her face. “You sound like the wicked witch in the Wizard of Oz. I’ll get you my pretty and your little dog too.” Gabrielle did a good vocal imitation of the famous witch and shook her head at Alti. It was clear that she was amused and that just added more fuel to the fire that was burning in Alti’s soul.
To her credit Alti saw the amusement in Gabrielle’s eyes and finally realized that she was being led by the proverbial nose ring. “Where’s Xena?” She said through gritted teeth. 
Fun and games were nearly over. But Gabrielle could still stall her just a bit longer. Hopefully it would belong enough for Dan to get the transport safely into a Martian dock and under her control. “As I said, she is busy.”
“Busy with what? Is she afraid to face me? Has her lineage gone downhill so far that she is having trouble taking over her new host?” Alti had lost her sense of humor. 
Gabrielle thought for only a moment on the questions. She decided that it won’t hurt to indulge her enemy just a little. “Actually Alti, she is dealing with a bigger problem than you.” She paused to see the reaction on Alti’s face. When she got the shocked and then angry reaction that she wanted she continued before Alti could inject another comment. “She is dealing with a little Ares problem.” That got the reaction that she wanted, pure jealousy and hatred. That should hinder her focus for a few more minutes. The longer that she could stall the more defenses could be raised and the more people they could save from the inevitable battle.
“Ares” Alti hissed through clenched teeth. “How can that be? He cannot reach beyond Earth.” She said to the deck plating. Then she raised her eyes to meet Gabrielle’s. She searched hem and finds that Gabrielle was speaking the truth. “Is Xena on Earth then?” Once again Alti actually expected Gabrielle to answer her and tell her where to find her former student.
Gabrielle isn’t giving anything away but she must be careful here, Alti can tell when she is lying. “Ares’ reach is long these days. He is the Supreme Commander over all of Earth’s Planetary Marines and technically he still is the Commander of the Martian Planetary Marines. That last part is going to change very soon. But for now he has a very long reach.” It was not a lie, none of it but it didn’t tell Alti where Xena was at. It was however a wonderful distraction.
Alti’s eyes got bigger around. She had not anticipated this development. She had been away from this system for a very long time. Things had transpired that she had not been aware of. This could ultimately alter her plans. She told the strange creature to her right to look it up; she wanted verification of what Gabrielle had said.
Gabrielle stood patiently waiting for Alti to confirm her words. Inside she was full of turmoil. She was praying fervently to the God of Eli for Xena’s ship to dock and for the Amazons to reach Cara’s wife Anise and Margo’s children Jacob and Ren. None of this showed on her exterior. Outwardly she gave the impression that she had all the time in the world to wait, which in fact she did but she didn’t have to feel patient about it.
Finally the small screen in front of Alti’s soldier showed the face of Ares. Alti snarled at the screen and turned accusing eyes to Gabrielle. “Don’t look at me like that. I was just as surprised as you.” Gabrielle said flippantly.
Alti dropped her eyes and studied the deck plates again. She was obviously deep in thought. Suddenly her head snapped up but her vision was still directed at something not in Gabrielle’s line of sight. “It’s of no consequence.” She turned her head to level a murderous look upon Gabrielle. “I hate you Gabrielle. I hate you with a passion that far exceeds any other emotion that I’ve ever had. You ruined me by ruining her and now you are going to pay for that transgression.” Alti took a menacing step towards the screen. “I’m going to erase you and your entire blood line and when I’m done I’m going to reclaim what is by right, mine!” The anger in her voice was barely controlled. “You wanna play rough? Yeah? Well say hello to my little friend!!” She took an elaborate bow without taking her eyes from Gabrielle.
The screen changed from an image of Alti’s smirking face to the sight of her impressive battleship that was presently hovering over a red planet. Alti’s voice was heard over the speaker. “How’s that for a movie quote you little bitch?” She said with true venom. The ship stayed on the screen for another second or two and it flicked off just as Alti’s maniacal laugh began.
Gabrielle let out a breath that she hadn’t realized that she was holding. “Pretty good Alti, yup that was pretty good.” She could feel Cara shaking off a chill in her mind.