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Teresa M Shafer - For books that kindle thought and ignite the imagination!
Chapter 18
And so it begins
When the screen goes blank every proximity claxon in the building goes off and then the city. Cara grabbed her head and screamed over the noise. “GEV shut that damn thing off!” The noise immediately abated. “Shit where the hell did that thing come from?” The GEV unit not knowing to whom Cara spoke simply took the liberty and answered the question. “The ship just materialized out of what looked like space.”  “Oh by the Gods, leave it to Alti to come up with a new toy! Alright, here we go. Get my commanders on the line; send out a general alert to the city and countryside. We are now in Martial Law. All civilians must move immediately to the nearest air raid shelter… posthaste.” She could still hear the claxons going off in the city and on her big screen her Commanders were popping up in a pixel of faces. “Turn those damn alarms down. People need to be able to hear our commands.” The Governor’s face lit up the screen overriding the pixels of her Command staff and he immediately started screaming at her. “Cara what the hell is that?” “It’s a ship Governor, what’s it look like.” Cara didn’t really have time to banter with the idiot. But unfortunately he was still the Governor… for the time being. An idea began to take shape in her mind.
Meanwhile the Governor was blustering. “What… of course it’s a ship. Who’s ship? Who are they what do they want?” He continued with more useless questions.
“Governor, you can imagine that I’m a little busy right now so I’m only going to say this once so everyone needs to listen up.” She pushed a button and overrode the Governor’s override so she could talk to everyone at once. “I don’t know where they came from or who they are really. What I do know is that their Commanding Officer, this General Zod is a very nasty and powerful woman. I have faced her before and it’s time to face her again. Now you can either help me defeat her or you can get out of my way. Make your decision now because I don’t have time to dick around with you!” The surety of her voice and her command presence shut them all up. “Governor, go home, go to your basement and stay there. The rest of you have been briefed on how I want you deployed. Unless you have any questions then you have your orders.” The screen went blank almost at once as Cara’s Commanders left to do her bidding. 
‘Hmmph, that was refreshing.’ She said to Gabrielle.
‘Yup it is satisfying when people do what they are told to do.’ She suddenly realized what she had just said ‘Xena love, where are you?’ She said to herself.
They launched their remaining four squadrons of ships at Alti’s command ship but they were having little success at causing any damage. They struck at it and fired everything that they had but it was like a mosquito biting an elephant. The mosquito might have had better luck.
The ship sat there and occasionally it would swat one of the fighters out of the sky but for the most part it just sat there and responded very little. Alti was playing with them she was probably waiting for Xena to respond.
“It’s like she has some sort of hull plating on the ship… like Star Trek or something.” One of the pilots said.
And for some reason Cara heard that transmission and the wheels in her mind started to turn. ‘Star Trek… he  aid it’s like Star Trek.’ Cara couldn’t quite place it but the words had tickled a memory. 
‘I don’t get it Cara… Star Trek…?’ Gabrielle knew what Star Trek had been or was, but she didn’t know why Cara had reacted that way to the comment. But she figured it was best to just let Cara think. Gabrielle could take over the battle while her hostess thought about whatever had sparked her interest.
Somehow deep in the back of her mind Cara knew that Gabrielle would automatically fill the gap and she could devote some time to figuring out why that reference had stopped her cold.
The air battle went on without any major changes for several minutes. The commanders in charge of the squadrons tried every trick that they knew to elicit more than just a minor response from the huge craft but their rounds just couldn’t punch through to cause any damage so the craft ignored them… for the most part.  
Cara’s ground troops reported that they were in place and ready. The civilian populace had gone underground as ordered and all was as ready as it would ever be in the event of a ground assault. Cara had over a hundred thousand troops on the ground and with the sudden influx of Amazon Warriors that number had swelled to nearly a hundred and fifty thousand for her to command. Yet with all of that there was little for Gabrielle to do. She stood alone in her tower in the Martian Planetary Marine Headquarters. The rest of the building had gone underground. She had refused to move. There was a command center in the basement but she liked Cara’s office, it had soda.
‘That’s it!’ Cara screamed out loud, suddenly coming to forefront. 
‘What’s it?’ Gabrielle had actually been surprised by the sudden outburst.
“It’s Star Trek… the crazy bitch is doing Star Trek!” Cara seemed to think that those words would be explanation enough. But Gabrielle was still clearly confused. “Don’t you see Gabrielle; you made her start thinking of movies with your banter. She seems to have picked out a movie that she thinks would be poetic justice for us both.”
‘And that movie is Star Trek?’
“Exactly… well more specifically Star Trek: The Wrath of Kahn. Gabrielle please trust me on this. Let me try to get her to make a stupid move.” She then let Gabrielle see what she was thinking and why she was thinking it.
Gabrielle smiled. ‘Oh yes my dear granddaughter… be my guest.’
As they finished speaking the ship in orbit suddenly started to bombard the city with laser shots. An orange beam shot forth from a small portal on the anterior side of the ship and lanced through homes and streets and anything else in the way. It left a nasty cauterized gash in its wake.
As if Cara needed any more confirmation for her theory… the laser was just icing on the cake for her. “GEV, hail that ship; get me General Zod on the horn.”
She and Gabrielle grabbed their bottle of Diet Pepsi and plopped themselves into one of the large armchairs in their makeshift living room and waited for Alti to respond. She would respond. It was just a matter of how long she wanted them to wait. As it turned out that wasn’t very long at all. Alti was never one for patience.
“Hmmmm, getting comfy are we?” Her rough voice had lost some of its edge. She spoke as one who was confident in the outcome… silky… almost caressing the words.
Cara was looking at the floor and smiling. It was exactly as she had thought. She raised only her eyes to look at the screen. “Humph, Alti my dear… you play a good game. But you’re a poor winner and a poorer loser.”
Alti’s demeanor immediately changed. This is not how she had imagined it. Cara should be screaming for a personal confrontation by now. She should be trying desperately to save the people of this planet. But instead she is sitting there… relaxing… smugly! “I’ve lost nothing you little bitch!”
Cara rose slowly and almost sensually to her feet. She looked up at Alti and bit her lower lip then ran her tongue over her upper lip. Her eyes had a playful kind of come hither look in them. She was definitely looking sexy. “Oh but that dear Alti is where you are wrong.” She purred while she brought a finger to her mouth as if she was thinking and at the last moment she licked it sensually and rested it on her chin. “You lost Xena… that is of course if you ever really had her.” She sucked her lower lip in and ran her upper teeth over it. Now, she had baited the trap and she waited to see if the snipe would run inside.
There was steam coming from Alti’s ears, or there would be if it were humanly possible. Her mind was racing and her body was reacting to that brat’s… to that brat! She had to bring her own impulses back under control and answer or she could lose face with her new allies. “What are you talking about? I made the Warrior Princess! She’s mine, she always was and she always will be!” It was the best she could do under the circumstances.
Cara smiled and lowered her eyes again only to look at Alti sideways. “Oh you made her, but was she yours?” She took another enticing step towards the screen and silently thanked the Amazons for the close fitting shirt that they had designed. “Tell me Alti did Xena ever give you a kiss or did you have to steal them from her?” Alti’s face screwed up in thought and then it touched on anger.
“I never stole anything from her. She was more than willing to give me what I wanted.” Alti said defensively. Where the hell Gabrielle was going with this Alti had no idea. But it was getting under her skin in more than one way.
Meanwhile Alti’s ship bombarded the surface of the planet. The laser was cutting up the city like a knife dices a tomato. Far away in space Dan and Xena were now free of any visible pursuit and were pushing their engines to the max trying to get home. They were still out by about forty minutes. They must have found some very fast squirrels for they had managed to shave off just over six hours from their return flight. It’s amazing how fast a shuttle can go when someone gets out and gives it a push.
“So that means…” Cara cooed seductively and put her finger back onto her chin just below her lip. “…that you’ve felt Xena’s breath on your throat and felt her tongue and teeth tracing your jaw line. That means that you’ve heard Xena breathe those three precious little words against your cheek after a long full sensual kiss has taken your own breath from your body and you’re helpless in her arms.” Cara breathed out heavily and fluttered her eyes as if she were about to faint while her finger slightly traced her jaw line.
Alti watched with ever growing interest and anger as she realized that she had never felt those things from Xena. She growled deep in her throat. It was a primal sound. It was the type of sound that one would expect to hear in the deepest darkest primal jungle, not from the bridge of a space ship. But there it was emanating from a woman whose eyes shone with such an intense hatred that they could burn a world to ashes.
Cara opened her eyes and smiled. Her eyes had lost their seduction and her lips were no longer pouting. There was a cruelty in them now that mirrored that of a cat. “I take it that Xena never gave you those things. Has she never made mad ravenous love to you under the stars or gently caressed your body with oils so she could take hours to lick them off?”
Alti looked like she was about ready to explode. Cara had no idea what was holding her back. ‘Perhaps a slight change of tactics, goad her pride perhaps…?’ Cara heard the suggestion from Gabrielle.
“Do you remember India Alti? Do you remember the last time that we met in battle? Xena chose to save me from you. She chose me over you Alti. You were little more than a cast off… a practice dummy.” Cara didn’t think that Alti could look any madder or crazier but the woman surprised her.
“India… have you lost your mind Gabrielle? The last time that we met in battle was in Los Angeles. Maybe there are a lot of things that you don’t remember correctly.” She was inferring that she had misremembered all of the things that she had said about Xena. Her teeth were clenched but somehow she was able to speak.
“Los Angeles… now you have forgotten some facts Alti. Those women were clones that you and some overachieving college kids made from some strands of hair. You don’t really think that you could call our spirits to you by making clones of us do you… no wait please don’t bother answering that. It is clear that you did think that we were the clones. Please… spare me!”
“But I was there that means you must have been there.” Alti had gone from furious to confused in a split second. She doubted herself easily.
“We were there; we just didn’t run into you. The clones killed you for us. They handled our light work. We fought Ares. And when both of you were gone we all lived… happily ever after. ”Cara just couldn’t help herself. Alti was just too easy.
For many long moments Alti stood there silently thinking of what Gabrielle had just said. The fury was building again. “Fine Gabrielle…” She finally said. Her voice was cold and controlled. “Keep your precious memories because you won’t be making any new ones.”
“Oh what are you going to do Alti? Kill me… why not… it’s not like I’m hiding here? I’m sitting in my tower all alone. It’s an easy shot, even from orbit.” She had to speak fast or Alti would give the order before Cara could make her think. 
This was the moment that Alti had been waiting for; now she could threaten Gabrielle… and then kill her. “Kill you; yes I’m going to kill you. I have deprived you of your power. Your ships are like gnats to me and your precious planet will be ashes and your people will be my slaves. But you will not live to see any of it. You should have run and hidden when you had the chance Gabrielle, because now I’m going to erase you.”
Cara broke out in laughter. It was the full belly kind and she was not acting. “Oh my God that’s all you got? All of this build up and drama and that is what you’re going to end it with? ”She was barely able to speak past the laughter. “You’re pathetic!”
Alti’s eyes squinted and glowered. “You’re not Gabrielle.” She stated and sounded very disappointed and angry.
Cara was just getting her laughter under control. “And you are so dumb that you are just figuring that out. No I’m not Gabrielle, but she’s in here and right now she’s laughing so hard she can’t speak. But I will tell you a little secret. All that stuff about Xena and her kissing and stuff… well I got to feel that and hear that. She wasn’t talking to me of course but it’s a hell of a lot more than you will ever have.” Cara started laughing again.
“It’s time to rid the universe of your stench Gabrielle and Cara Rayne too. Prepare to die!” She actually looked like she was done playing. But Cara and Gabrielle were just getting warmed up.
“Alright kill me, but you will never have what you really want. You will never have Xena’s love or her passion or her adoration. They’re mine. They’ve been mine for thousands of years and I’ll take them with me to my grave… again. And you would have proven once again that you are a coward and unworthy of her love.” They spoke as if they were resigned to their fate and in all honesty they really were. They had to buy more time. They didn’t want to die but if they could do no more to delay the woman then it was time to let someone else try.
The continuance of Mars would have to fall on the shoulders of other people if they couldn’t get that ship out of the sky. Dan and Xena had to return; they would think of something that would bring the ship down. But right now at this very second all that Mars had was Cara and Gabrielle’s gift of gab, if Alti would just keep biting on the shit that they were talking…
Alti had turned away from the screen. She was determined not to be delayed by this little tramp any longer. But when she heard the word coward she spun around like she was on a top. She glared at Cara. She had no idea which one was speaking and she really no longer cared, she realized that she hated them equally. “I will get the pleasure out of watching you burn.” She goaded.
Neither Cara nor Gabrielle took the bait. But they did throw their own chum into the water. “You’ll watch me burn from up there? So you are content after all of these centuries of never watching me die to simply sit up there on the flight deck of that ship and watch me burn on a vid screen? Really Alti, I have to tell you that I’m a little disappointed in you. I had kind of hoped to meet you face to face again. I was kind of losing the last match and I wanted to see if all of my practice had paid off. I wanted the chance to kick your cowardly little ass.”   
“That’s not going to work on me Gabrielle or Cara or whoever you are. I can just as easily blast your tower to smithereens and never get my hands dirty.” She really was content with just blasting Cara’s tower from existence. 
“Fine, blast my tower to smithereens. But answer me this one question Alti for old times’ sake…” Alti looked at her and in a magnanimous gesture she allowed for the question. “Are you afraid of my ground forces or just afraid of facing me in battle one on one?” Her voice was calm. It was Cara that spoke but she spoke for them both. She knew, as did Gabrielle that this was the last chance to buy time. Alti had still not answered. Their chance was slipping away. 
“Look, I’m not James T. Kirk and you’re not Kahn Noonien Singh but we hate each other just the same. Personally I would love to see your eyes when I gut you like the pig that you are and I can’t imagine that you would want anything less from me. Watching me burn from a vid screen just sounds so anti-climatic and frankly I thought that you were above that. I guess I was wrong.” Their voice was sure because while they had spoken they had realized that this was really what they wanted. They wanted to physically fight Alti. Standing back as the General and directing troops is fun when its only a marching army but when you start getting all of these other units involved it just gets too complicated and you don’t get to have any personal fun. They wanted to get into the fight… more than that they wanted to personally get into a fight with Alti! And here she was right in front of them.
Alti had listened to the voice of Gabrielle and down in her soul she heard the call of one warrior to another and despite her best judgment she knew that she was going to accept the challenge.“ Fifteen minutes, in front of your tower… bring it!” The vid went dark.
“Yes!” Their elation was evident in their voice and in the little jump for joy and dance that they did once the vid was dark.
‘She’s sure not to come alone.’ Gabrielle cautioned.
‘Didn’t figure that she would.’ Cara all but sang as she grabbed her new armor from the rack by the bar. “GEV, get me Major Warden on the horn.”
‘Can I ask you how you knew about Alti’s infatuation?’
‘It was pretty obvious that her hatred of you was fueled by more than just the loss of a student. It was a guess that Alti and Xena had never actually been lovers ‘cuz she just doesn’t seem like Xena’s type. Not even a young Xena would have tolerated her in that way… at least I don’t think that she would have voluntarily or happily been apart of that type of relationship with Alti. Was I wrong?’
‘Obviously not… but it was risky of you when you didn’t really know.’
‘Sometimes in order to win a battle you have to take risks and just trust your gut. 
‘True, you did well. I’m proud of you.’ It was clear that Gabrielle truly was proud of her granddaughter’s performance.
Cara could not help but be touched. This was the woman that she wanted to emulate most. ‘Thanks.’ Inwardly she blushed and smiled shyly. Her awkwardness lasted only moments. ‘Now let’s kick Alti’s ass!’ 
Cara had gotten into her armor and Major Warden was waiting. “Major, I’m expecting visitors on my front lawn in about ten minutes. Can you make certain that they are given a warm reception?”
 “It would be my great honor to see to our visitors. Will you be joining us?” He had noticed that she was donning her gloves and a rifle was lying on her chest. 
“Yes I will be joining you. Please make sure that the Champaign has been chilled to the temperature of vengeance.”  
“Gladly.” He saluted and the vid went dark again