A red light on the security console came on and the alarm began to sound. The night guard snapped his head up and rubbed his sleepy eyes. “What the hell…?” Those were the first words out of his mouth. He had been sound asleep. He had stayed up all day with his wife and children and had not slept at all. This was a common practice for him to come to work night shift so he could sleep. Nothing ever happened on this shift. But there was a red light on the console and an alarm was going off. He scanned the alarm systems information and it showed that the alarm was in area 44. It was a door breech… in the morgue. “What the hell…?” He asked again. He reached for the radio to call his mobile patrol and another red light lit on the console. He silenced the alarm before it could sound. This one was a motion detector in area44a which was just outside of the morgue. Suddenly he was fully awake and on the radio to his patrols. He told them what kind of alarms had gone off and recommended extreme caution. As he lifted his finger from the radio switch another alarm sounded. This one came from a security door that separated area’s 44 and 45 it had been opened and then reset. There was no doubt about it someone was walking around down there… but there shouldn’t be anyone here.
That’s when he picked up the phone and contacted his Supervisor, who had also been sleeping up until he had heard the call come over the radio. He was on his way to area 45 now as well.
Meanwhile Xena and Gabrielle were enjoying the fact that they seemed to have all the knowledge that they needed to get from one area to the next. They also seemed to know exactly where they were going. But they couldn’t remember the names of the women that they had inherited the bodies from or any other personal information about them. Only the technical information remained. That in itself was strange because they knew for a fact that when you died you took everything with you.They should know they had died enough… at least they thought that they knew. According to Nayima a person that they had known a very long time ago they had lived many lives before they had been Xena and Gabrielle but neither had any recollection of any such lives. Nevertheless they were thankful for their information that these two women had left for them. So as usual they just went with it.
Up in the security office the sleepy night watchman suddenly realized that he could access the camera system and see who might be wandering around in the belly of the facility. At about the same time his mobile team had met up with their Supervisor and he was asking for a visual report from the bird in the sky.
Before the sleepy watchman could get the camera picture that he wanted Xena and Gabrielle turned the corner and stopped at the far end of a long hallway. What they saw was four heavily armed men and one armed only with a pistol. What the patrol saw was two dead women that were dressed in white, i.e. ghosts. They turned as one and ran. They left their Supervisor standing alone in the hallway.
“Well I’ve never gotten that reaction before.” Gabrielle all but pouted.
“I have.” Xena said in exasperation “But I don’t think it’s because they know who we are. I think that they think we are who we were.”
Gabrielle tried to follow Xena’s words but was totally baffled. “What?”
Xena looked at her like she was an idiot for just a second. “They think we’re ghosts.”
The light went on for Gabrielle. “Oh”
The Supervisor at the end of the hallway had not moved. He couldn’t quite hear their conversation but it seemed odd to him that these ghosts had not advanced, they had stopped to talk to each other and they just seemed very different than he expected of a ghost. He finally decided that if anyone was going to lose their job today for this breach it wasn’t going to be him. “Excuse me, Majors is that you?”
“Majors… well we’re still in the military it seems.” Gabrielle noted and began to walk towards the nervous Supervisor.
“Unless Majors is one of our names.” Xena countered. She was walking abreast of Gabrielle.
They did not rush to meet the man. He seemed skittish and neither wanted to spook him. Both of them knew this man, but they couldn’t pull up the memory. He must have been part of the personal stuff that went with the owners or they just didn’t know him very well. Either way it didn’t really matter. They discussed it quietly as they walked but came to no conclusions.
They stopped about ten feet from the man. He was appraising them with a critical eye. He physically jumped when Xena spoke.
“You might want to get someone to clean up the morgue; hacking up all that crap kind of made a mess and Gabs spit on the floor.” She said seriously but jovially, in a way that only Xena could pull off.
“Only once but then there was the puking…” Gabrielle added with her eyebrows raised.
“Yah and don’t forget the nose blowing…” Xena was nodding at Gabrielle.
“Twice…” Gabrielle almost sounded like she was just remembering the detail and that it was vitally important.
“And then the sinus flush kind of made a mess…” Xena made a gagging sound and stuck her finger in her mouth.
“We couldn’t find a laundry basket to put the sheets in…” She sounded like Suzie Homemaker all of a sudden.
“But in all honesty you might just want to burn ‘em” Xena finished for them again with the seriousness.
The Supervisor was caught completely off guard by their banter. He honestly couldn’t tell if these were the women that he thought that they were or not. He had only met them the one time. But he had no choice he needed to find out if only because he was curious now. “So, you are Major Rayne and Major Blazer are you not?” He was kind of afraid to hear the answer.
They looked at one another. “Well, yes and yet are sounding no.” Gabrielle said making things as clear as mud for the poor man.
“I’m going to make a big assumption here and figure that you think that she’s Major Rayne and I’m Major Blazer. Am I right?” Xena asked the Supervisor, his name plate told her that his name was Price. He was nodding and looking a bit green around the gills. “Well I’m going to help you out a little bit. These bodies did belong to those women, but they’re dead. Now we get the bodies for as long as we need them. Are you with me still?” Mr. Price was nodding his head and turning greener by the second. “My name is Xena and this beautiful woman is Gabrielle. Do you know who we are?” As soon as she said the names Mr. Price let out a relieved sigh and his color began to return. He was now nodding enthusiastically.
“Umm Mr. Price can you do something besides nod?” Gabrielle was growing a bit concerned for the man’s health.
“Yes of course I can…”He began almost indignantly. Realizing what he had just said and how it had sounded he cleared his throat and began again. “Yes, I can speak of course. I’m sorry this is kind of a surprise. No-one ever imagined that you would return like this. But that is not to say that we are not prepared for you.” He smiled warmly at them both. He was obviously very pleased that he had been the one to find them. “If you’ll please follow me, I’ll get you some proper clothing and a shower. Let me make a call here.” He was turning in small circles as he walked so he could both lead them and speak to them.
“Do you have a sauna here?” Xena asked and he looked a bit shocked by the question. “We’re gonna need to sweat some of this poison from our system.” Gabrielle was nodding.
“They do have a sauna…in the… gym?” Gabrielle had found a piece of information tucked away in her mind.
“As a matter of fact we do have a sauna in the gym.” He said in affirmation. “Do you want to go there first then?” They both nodded. “Good that will give me some time to make the appropriate notifications and to get you that clothing… umm what would you like to wear?”
“I rather liked the military uniform that the Amazons had made for the Marines last time we were here. If you have those it would be nice… or something similar.” Xena was talking to the man’s back. But he indicated that he had heard her and was in fact relaying the information almost as fast as she got it out of her mouth.
“The uniforms of the Martian Marine Corps have changed very little since you were here last. The modifications that have been made are quite nice from what I hear. In fact you were wearing the new flight suits when you or rather they came here. Those were of course discarded. We have both flight suits and infantry suits here, which would you prefer?” He was a talkative fellow and was probably seeing some kind of reward for having found the heroes in his future, but only if he really made a positive impression on them.
“Just give us infantry suits.” Xena said quickly before he started talking again.
They made it to an elevator and stepped inside. The gym was many floors up.
“How did these women die?” Xena had no recollection and there were no clues inside her new mind either.
“It was a mining accident. They came here to inspect the facility. The whole thing is under investigation… of course.” He answered quickly… too quickly.
Xena and Gabrielle looked at each other knowingly but did not pursue the topic.
“How long have we been gone?” Gabrielle was almost hoping that it had not been too long. She kind of wanted to see Cara and Margo again. But her hope was squashed when he answered her.
“A hundred and eighty-seven years ma’am… that’s Earth years. But never fear the Blake and Rayne Corporation has made certain that we are all prepared for you.”
“Well, it was nice to hope for a minute. So Cara and Margo went into business together. Did they buy the Pepsi Corporation?” Gabrielle asked curiously, but strangely enough she knew the answers to her questions almost as soon as she asked them. None of what she was asking was personal information. All of this stuff was what was considered common knowledge; including how long she and Xena had been away.
“Oh, yes ma’am that was their first purchase. Since then the Corporation has made Mars the single largest and wealthiest entity in the known Galaxy.” He sounded extremely proud. “This facility is owned by Blake and Rayne. I can’t think of anything that is not either owned by them or run by one of your family members. All of Mars is under the control of your descendants. And before you ask… only our competition complains.” He was proud.
“But we’re not on Mars.” Xena said just as the lift doors opened.
They exited the lift and began walking down another hallway before Mr. Price spoke again. “No that’s true but this moon and several others are owned by Mars. This is a mining operation on Titan, but you probably figured that one out yourselves. We actually own twenty-one of the seventy-seven notable moons of Saturn. We also own most of the moons of Jupiter, including the four ladies, Io, Europa, and Ganymede and of course Callisto.” He was content to hear himself talk and did not see the reaction of his charges to the last name on his small list. He continued to talk about operations on the various moons but they tuned him out as their new minds already contained all of that information.
He was still expounding upon the superiority of Mars and her property when they finally reached the gym and the sauna. Someone had beaten them to the room and the sauna was nice and hot when they got there. They ordered up several buckets of water and one empty bucket, some soap, sponges and towels and told Mr. Price to wait outside. They draped one of the towels over the small window that was in the door and then stripped in the steamy room.
“It sounds like we made quite the impression on Cara and Margo.” Gabrielle said as she leaned back on a bench and let the sweat bead on her skin.
“I’d say… my little housewife became a financial tycoon and your little warlord conquered everything that she could get her hands on. Between the two of them they either bought or won a great deal. Speaking of Margo I wonder if she married Mr. Blazer just to get the name.” Xena was lounging as well and she noticed that her sweat was not exactly clear. She pointed it out to Gabrielle.
Gabrielle nodded and pushed an orange colored clump that looked like mucus from her eye. “No wonder they hurt so much earlier.” She started digging at her other eye.
After seeing the phlegmy stuff came out of Gabrielle’s eye. Xena started flushing her own with the water that they had ordered. After several tries she realized that it would work better if they flushed each other’s eyes. So while they talked that’s what they did flushed each other’s eyes and scrubbed the orange tinged sweat from each other’s bodies.
“So according to Major Blazer’s memory we should be able to get back to Mars in about three Martian days. That should give us some time to acclimate to our new bodies and all of this new information.” Xena was getting intense on one of Gabrielle’s ears. Suddenly she got up and went to the door. As she suspected Mr. Price and two of the guards that had run earlier were standing outside. She cracked the door. “Hey, we need something to help clean our ears and eyes out. Get me some kind of hand held irrigator.” They looked confused. “Go to the med lab and get into the Dental equipment and get a big syringe looking thing that has no needle at the end.” She sounded much more patient than she felt.
Twenty minutes later one of the men came back with a large offering of items. Xena took the only irrigator in the pile and offered her thanks. The man beamed like a teenager after his first kiss. “Oh, boys we’re nearly done in here and when we are we’re gonna need those showers and some shampoo, conditioner and new bars of soap and some new sponges and towels and some toothbrushes and paste… oh and some privacy.” Xena was really trying to be nice.
Once back inside the sauna she and Gabrielle applied themselves vigorously to getting all of the poison from their ears and eyes. In some cases it was uncomfortable and in others it was downright painful. But it had to come out. The steam helped a great deal, even with things that they thought had been clean… like their lungs. It was a good thing that they had requested an empty bucket with the other things because between the two of them what they coughed up easily covered the bottom of the pail. The only saving grace as far as either was concerned was that neither needed to vomit again.
Sometime later they exited the sauna wrapped in towels. Their hair was wet and sticky with poison as was their skin. All they wanted was to scrub under a hot shower. But before they could get what they wanted they had to please their hosts. Immediately upon exiting they notice another man had joined the other three. Mr. Price introduced them to the other man, Doctor Malone.
“It is a great pleasure to be of assistance to the both of you.” The Doctor was beaming and pumping Xena’s arm as if he expected water to spout from her mouth any second now.
Xena extricated her hand from the man only for him to reach for Gabrielle. Gabrielle managed to avoid his hand by deftly lifting a corner of her towel and applying some attention to one of her ears. Her move helped in one area only to harm in another. Her movement caused him and every other male in the room to divert their eyes to Gabrielle’s thighs. Her shapely thighs were now exposed nearly to her crotch and had she turned around the men would most definitely have gotten an eyeful of a great deal more than just thigh. Xena stepped in front of her and their vision was immediately returned to eye level.
“If all of you really want to serve us you might think about doing it with your eyes in your heads and your hands busy doing something constructive. I may not be Major Blazer but I’m pretty certain that she wouldn’t stand for this behavior either. Am I wrong?” Xena tried not to growl… too much.
Meanwhile Gabrielle had fixed her towel as best as she could and had stepped up beside her and wrapped her hands around Xena’s arm.
The men as a whole immediately looked chastised and embarrassed. Mr. Price gruffly ordered the guards out of the room and he took several steps backwards away from the women. Dr. Malone looked just as embarrassed but he stood his ground. As a way of averting his own eyes he pulled a couple of small bottles of a milky looking mixture from a medical bag that was sitting on a stool.
“Please accept my apologies… Xena; our enthusiasm overrode our good sense and our manners. I cannot promise that it will not happen again but I can assure that it will not happen again here at this installation. Am I correct in making that promise Mr. Price?” Mr. Price proclaimed that the good Doctor was correct and turned red again.
“Thank you both. It’s hard enough for us to do this without… well without that.” Gabrielle had actually been upset by their behavior. Clearly she was not feeling herself yet. She slid her hand down Xena’s arm and interlaced her fingers with her lover’s. Xena could feel the uneasiness in Gabrielle. She pulled her arm behind her back until Gabrielle’s body was pressed up against her own. Then she reached that same arm with Gabrielle’s hand still in her own around behind Gabrielle’s back and extended her fingers to touch Gabrielle’s ribs. Gabrielle swallowed hard and did not resist. Normally she did not appreciate public displays very much, except for special circumstances holding hands and a quick peck on the lips and hugging of course were usually the extent of her tolerance. Most people thought that Xena was the one that didn’t like public displays but it was Gabrielle that drew the lines when it came to how much of their private life was allowed to be seen by others. Her acceptance of this move by Xena indicated how insecure she felt at the moment.
“So, what’s in the bottles Doc?” Xena wanted this conversation to be over quickly. She wanted to find out what was wrong with her beloved.
“This is something that will help your body to purge the poisons from the inside. I imagine that you have done everything that you can do to get it out but there is one more system that can expel a great deal of it. Just drink the entire bottle and it will do the rest. I’ve brought some water as you will need to drink a great deal to rehydrate your bodies after all that you have expelled… with more to come.” He pointed at two large sweating jugs of water.
“How long will this last?” She had taken the bottles of milky medicine in her free hand.
“About an hour, perhaps a bit more. It will leach the poison from your system as it is processed through your body. Drink lots of water and just let it all come out.” He was clearly a bit uncomfortable discussing the topic. Although it was unclear if he was now uncomfortable with Xena or with Mr. Price listening in on what should have been a private conversation?
“Alright then, we’re going to take a long shower and purge our bodies.” Xena said with a bit of sarcasm and began to back away from the men.
“Ahh, pardon me please Xena...” Mr. Price was saying. “You need not hurry. A message has come from HQ. They want you both to wait for a Fighter escort for your shuttle. They were already on the way from Mars. They were coming to retrieve the…” He stopped as if suddenly realizing what he was going to say.
“The bodies… they were coming to retrieve the bodies… right?” Xena said without any humor at all.
“Yes ma’am, the bodies…but they will be here in ten hours and fifty-seven minutes, to escort your shuttle home.” He was fidgeting now.
“There are no Fighters here?” Gabrielle joined the conversation. Her voice was calm and soft but demanding as well.
“No, ma’am we don’t keep Fighters here and you… they… the Majors arrived on a shuttle. You will have to return to Mars in a shuttle.” He was really sorry that he had to tell them that and it sounded like it.
“But you said that they were wearing flight suits. Why would they wear flight suits and take a shuttle?” Gabrielle was puzzled because her memory did not include an answer to the question. How can something like that be personal?
Mr. Price had no answer for her. There was a short silence that Xena broke. “Well gentlemen, if you please…” She waved at the door with her free hand. Gabrielle was trying to pull her hand away but Xena was gently hanging on.
As soon as the men exited the room and the door shut behind them Xena turned to face Gabrielle. “So, what’s wrong?”
Gabrielle had decided to retain Xena’s hand and was looking at it. “I don’t know. That certainly wasn’t the first time men have leered at me.” She shook her head and looked up at Xena’s eyes. Xena’s descendants seemed to always manage to come out with those beautiful steel blue eyes. Looking into them Gabrielle felt peaceful. “I don’t know. Maybe there’s still just too much happening at once. This poison is making my body feel… itchy from the inside.”
The pronouncement actually made Xena smile. This was something that she could fix. She hated dealing with emotions and feelings. She couldn’t fix those but this whole poison thing… this she could fix. She handed Gabrielle one of the bottles and said, “Bottoms up.” And unscrewed the lid and drank it all down. Gabrielle was only a heartbeat behind Xena in emptying her own bottle of nasty chalk water.
“When we’re done with our shower and our cleansing… we need to find out what went on down in the mine.” Xena said as she turned on a shower.
“I agree.” It was all Gabrielle got out before she plunged her orange tinged blond hair under the steaming water. The water ran in orange streams from them both.
While they washed they both scoured the memories of their hosts for information. Alti apparently had beaten them back by quite a large margin. All of the information concerning her operation was inside their minds. That was no surprise. She was the reason why they were here after all.