It took the Security staff about forty minutes to start arriving. It was good timing because Xena was about done with her third helping of bacon and Gabrielle had managed to eat the largest Belgian Waffle that she had ever seen. “Mmm, there’s something to be said for being completely empty.” Xena said while she was picking something out of her teeth. She had eaten a three egg omelet, a half-pound of bacon, hash browns and toast and washed it all down with two large glasses of orange juice and was now sipping on some coffee. Gabrielle on the other hand had eaten the Waffle that had drown a soggy death in butter and maple syrup and the other half pound of bacon and was washing everything down with a Diet Pepsi.“That stuff grew on yah huh?” Xena was pointing at her bottle. “Yah it did, besides tome I’ve not really been gone more than a few days.” Gabrielle took a big drink of her Pepsi. “Why do you bother with drinking diet? You just ate what… a million calories, how is drinking a diet soda gonna help?” She had a point and it was a point that had probably been made thousands of times since diet soda was introduced to humanity and Gabrielle had the classic reply.
“I like the taste.” She burped just loud enough to be heard and apologized coyly.
Xena finished off her cup of coffee leaned back and patted and rubbed her trim stomach. “Well if you’re ready… we have a murder to solve.” Xena pushed herself to her feet.
“Right you are Holms.” Gabrielle smiled mischievously. Together they headed back to the CAC.
When they arrived the room was pretty full and they had managed to come in fairly undetected. Mr. Price was telling anyone who would listen that he had ordered the recall because something just didn’t fit right and he was going to get to the bottom of things. The soul mates listened to his drivel for several minutes while quietly but surly making their way to where Mr. Price was standing.
“Glad to hear that we’re all on the same page Mr. Price and not a minute too soon. The bodies in the morgue aren’t getting any colder and the people responsible have a three day start on us. But that’s not going to stop us from finding out who did what.” Xena’s words dripped with sarcasm and recrimination. Mr. Price fell blessedly silent. “So, where are the other Security Supervisors?” A few people stepped forward, two men and a woman. She was clearly not an Amazon… well if she was she was a poor excuse for one. She was more round than she was tall and the skin below her chin jiggled when she walked. The lines on her face told everyone that she had no sense of humor and probably never did. Her thighs were as big around as Xena’s waist and then some and they ended where her feet began. Gabrielle was trying her best to be charitable in her thoughts but she just couldn’t figure out how the woman walked. The woman’s name was Geraldine Brubaker and she was the Senior Supervisor of Security.
The two men were Blain Greensmith and Zachery Manning. They were the Security Supervisors for Dayshift and Swing shift respectively. Mr. Greensmith was built like a linebacker. But if he had been in sports at one time it was clear that the only sports he participated in now were twelve ounce curls and potato chip wrestling. Mr. Manning was of an average build. He frequented the gym but did not modify his diet. So he had muscle under a liberal amount of fat. But he thought that the fat didn’t really show or detract from his overall physique. He was wrong.
In short the Supervisors of Security were all woefully out of shape physically and by their actions were also mentally lazy. ‘Oh well, you got to work with what you got.’ Xena thought to herself. She glanced over at Gabrielle who was still staring at Ms. Brubaker with a puzzled expression on her face. Xena had to clear her throat to get her lover’s attention. Gabrielle was shaking her head in disbelief when she stepped up beside Xena.
“Alright, first off Mr. Copal, Mr. Holden, Mr. Fin and Mr. Morrison are working on a special project for me and Gabrielle. Hence they will not be working with you. That being said, Mr. Greensmith I want you to take your shift’s personnel and go down into the mine. I want you to gather evidence. You do know how to gather evidence don’t you?” He was giving her the most profound dumb look that she had ever seen. “Well I’m sure that someone wrote a Standard Operating Procedure for just such an occasion. Go find it and start reading.” He stood there without moving… until Xena raised her voice. “NOW, Mr. Greensmith… I mean now!” Half the room jumped when she yelled and most of the other half took a small step back. A few stood their ground.
Gabrielle cupped a hand over half her mouth and turned her head to Xena. “That was an interesting reaction.” She spoke I ancient Greek, they both did when they didn’t want anyone else knowing their conversation.
“Yah, even if they don’t believe we are who we say we are they still should be jumping to the commands of Major Blazer. I don’t get it.” Xena said.
“I think I’m beginning to… I think that you got lucky finding four men that were loyal.” Just in case, Gabrielle had lowered her voice a bit more but Xena’s excellent hearing had caught the comment and her eyes became just a bit bigger for a fraction of a second. Gabrielle’s inference was clear.
When Xena had yelled Mr. Greensmith had jumped and turned to run and do her bidding. Several men and women turned to follow him out. His shift personnel Xena presumed.
“Mr. Manning I want you and your shift to review and collate every single person in and out of the installation for the last month. I want to know who has come and gone and for what reason.” Mr. Manning looked like he was going to protest but thought better of it. Instead he saluted smartly and turned on a heel and walked away without waiting for a return salute. He was trailed by his shift. That left only Mr. Price, Ms. Brubaker and Grave shift in the room. “Mr. Price I want you to actually run your shift. That means that when Mr. Manning and Mr. Greensmith report in with any information he will be reporting it to your shift. I want you to take it to Ms. Brubaker. She in turn will see that it is properly confirmed and collated and then she will present the information to me and Gabrielle. Is that clear?”
Mr. Price was nodding his head once again like a bobble head. “Yes Ma’am!”
“Good, you might just save your job yet sir.” Xena said dryly.
“That’s a hell of a promise to make.” Gabrielle said under her breath. Only Xena had heard her.
Mr. Price was smiling and thanking Xena for the opportunity to redeem himself. Gabrielle scowled at him. Her look silenced him and sent him on his way.
“My… aren’t we in a nasty mood?” Xena said to Gabrielle the second that he had departed and taken Ms. Brubaker and his shift with him.
“I think Major Rayne knew what was going on here… that’s why she’s dead.” Gabrielle was looking sideways at everyone. As if she expected an attack at any second.
“I think you’re right. But letting them know that you suspect them will only get us killed or worse. Relax, let’s keep them all busy chasing ghosts until we can get out of here and set some things straight. We still don’t know the whole picture.” She was looking around as much as Gabrielle but she wasn’t half as obvious about it.
“Your right.” Gabrielle sighed heavily and then took a cleansing breath. It calmed her nerves. She knew that Xena was right. They needed to appear harmless or they just might get caught in the web of this place just as Major Rayne and Major Blazer had.
It took over an hour before Mr. Greensmith was ready to descend into the mines. It sounded like along time but the mines were dangerous and Security personnel were not normally allowed in the mines except in extreme circumstances… such as these. They had called in the few personnel that they had on staff for investigations. These people confirmed the need to go into the mines and issued the appropriate clearances. They were also accompanying Mr. Greensmith and his shift into the mines.
Gabrielle had found an out of the way monitor so that she could watch the activity in the mines without getting in anyone’s way. She stood facing a monitor when she saw the image of Mr. Price walking towards her reflected in the screen. She did not turn to face him.
“Excuse me… miss…Gabrielle. May I speak with you?” His voice was calm and low. She was fairly certain that given the activity in the room and their relative isolation from it that no-one could hear him.
She matched her voice to his. “Of course Mr. Price, what can I help you with?” She did not turn towards him. He was not facing her. He was facing the monitor. For some reason he didn’t want anyone to notice that they were talking. They were just watching the open monitor together.
“I know that I’ve disappointed you.” She did not reply. He didn’t need a reply; his comment had not been a question or a fishing trip. “I guess that I have compromised too many times. This place… it will do that to you.” He paused when someone walked near to them. “Many years ago when I came here, I was full of hope and the job was full of promise. But then she came here… Ms. Brubaker. She killed moral and promoted only her own cronies. Now every independent thought is squashed like a bug. I’ve only kept my job because I stay out of her way. I guess I’ve become worse than her cronies because now I seem to have lost myself.” A tear threatened to fall. Gabrielle could see it in the monitor.
‘Is he baiting me?’ Gabrielle asked herself. She looked at the man in the glass and then stole a look at his profile when all other eyes in the room were diverted elsewhere. “Who hired her?” It seemed like a safe question.
“The mine Personnel office hired her to be the Supervisor but I think that she’s working for someone else. You saw how they were slow to take Xena’s orders. They work for her… not for Blake and Rayne. They thought that they had killed you… them. Now they have to deal with you and Xena instead.” He stopped again when another person walked near to them.
Gabrielle thought that it was strange that two people suddenly found a reason to wander into this remote corner of the room. She had been standing here for fifteen minutes and no-one had even glanced in her direction. But now that she was standing with Mr. Price they found reason to wander over here and she had caught several looking over at her. She decided that was worth entertaining the thought that Mr. Price was one of the good guys. “Major Rayne knew something didn’t she?”
“Yah, unfortunately she let them know that.”
“That’s why she’s dead.”
“Yah, and if you don’t want to join her I suggest you tell that fighter squadron to hurry. Whoever Brubaker works for isn’t going to want you and Xena around.” Another person walked too close. “I should go.” He glanced at her from the corner of his eye. Her look held him in place.
“How do I contact them? Who can I trust?”
“If you trust me then I can tell you that the four that you picked out earlier… they’re loyal still. They haven’t been turned.” Another person was heading in their direction. “Mr. Fin is the weak link.” He stepped back and walked away without another word or look.
The person that had been heading towards them suddenly did an about face and walked the other way. Gabrielle needed no further confirmation. Either Mr. Price was a good guy or he had delivered whatever information that the enemy faction wanted delivered. She reviewed every word that he had said; she was looking for anything that pointed to him as an enemy. Ultimately she decided to go with her initial gut instinct. She remembered his initial reaction to them when they were in the morgue tunnels below. Price was lazy and fairly worthless as a Security Supervisor but he was loyal.
“So how’s it going down there?” Xena had stepped up beside her. Gabrielle shifted nervously. It had surprised her. Xena noticed the flinch and put a hand on Gabrielle’s shoulder. Her beloved was jumpy and she couldn’t really blame her. Xena’s body felt just as antsy and she couldn’t figure out why. Maybe it was just a left over feeling from their previous owners or maybe they had managed to hone their self-preservation reactions. All her body wanted to do was to get the hell out of here and she imagined that Gabrielle felt the same way.
“I have no idea. Honestly Xena I haven’t been paying attention.” Gabrielle put her hand on her lover’s hand. “I want to call the Fighters, to ask them to hurry.” She looked into Xena’s eyes via the monitor reflection.
Xena leaned over and placed a soft breathy kiss on Gabrielle’s cheek and whispered in her ear. “I already have. They will be here in about three hours instead of eight.” She bumped Gabrielle’s cheek with her nose. Her actions were effectively making it look like the two of them were only discussing the things that lovers would discuss.
Gabrielle knew what Xena was doing. She could see the people watching them as well as Xena could in the monitor. Gabrielle smiled and bit her lower lip. “Did you have Mr. Morrison and his friends help you?”
“Mmmhha” Xena made a good show of nibbling at Gabrielle’s ear and Gabrielle was making a show ofen joying it.
“Good, because I don’t think we’re going to last eight hours.” Xena actually did nip Gabrielle’s ear and a small gasp escaped Gabrielle’s throat. The smile that grew on Gabrielle’s face now was not for show. “Xena, maybe we should find someplace else to be for a while.”
“Good idea.” Xena stopped nibbling and took Gabrielle by the hand. When they turned around suddenly everyone’s eyes found someplace else to be. Xena found Ms. Brubaker and she and Gabrielle walked up to her with their arms around each other. “Ms. Brubaker… it seems that Gabrielle and I have finally thawed out… if you know what I mean. We’re going to find a nice corner to occupy.” Xena smiled at the woman and she gave a knowing smile in return. Gabrielle tried to look coy but she had to look at the floor to keep from laughing. Xena would have pinched her had she been able to get through all the armor.
“There are lots of empty staff rooms if you would like me to show you on a facility map?” Ms. Brubaker offered.
Those rooms were all monitored by camera and audio. “Naw, we’re not as accustomed to beds as people think we should be. We’ll find a cubby hole somewhere out of the way… maybe the gym or something like that.” She looked at Gabrielle lasciviously. Gabrielle had to look at the ground again and cover her mouth to hold in the laughter. To her audience she looked convincingly shy. “If you need us you can contact us with the facility comm system.” She didn’t wait for a reply or an offer for a personal comm. She couldn’t think of an excuse to turn one down. So she dragged Gabrielle away as quickly as she could without actually running. Behind her she heard several snickers and a few lewd comments and even a couple of offers of help. Loyal employees would have never been bold enough or stupid enough to voice anything let alone what these people had. They were in more trouble than Xena had thought.
Xena led them in silence down several floors and into a storage room. The room was full of computer equipment some of it was old but some of it was still in the boxes. Whoever Ms. Brubaker worked for didn’t give a damn about upgrading anything. Xena led Gabrielle towards the back of the large room. They walked down the narrow walkway that was between two tall shelving units. When they got to the back they stopped and Gabrielle could see that the shelves continued for ten or twelve rows on either side of the one that they were in. Xena turned right and walked along the back wall for about ten paces and then stopped again. She reached into the shelving unit that lined the back wall and a piece of it slid away from her. Behind the moving piece was another hallway. Xena followed the hallway and Gabrielle followed her. The moving shelving unit closed behind them.
Gabrielle stayed a couple of steps behind Xena just in case they needed to fight and she wasn’t sure that they wouldn’t. There was a light up ahead that was brighter than the dim lighting of the hallway. Xena turned and gave Gabrielle a reassuring smile before she turned right where the hallway ended towards the bright light of another room. Gabrielle followed her. Xena had stopped in the doorway and Gabrielle sidled up to her. The four men that they had chosen earlier were all at a computer station somewhere in the room.
The room was the entire length of the hallway that they had just walked down and as wide as the stacks had been in the storage area… in short it was huge. On one end it was lined with monitors and computers. On the far end it had a massive monitor on the wall behind a bank of computers and a large console. Xena held her arms out to either side and looked around the room. “Welcome to rebel central.”
Gabrielle looked up at her beloved. She could hardly believe what she had just heard. “Are you kidding me?” Then she looked around the room again. ‘No, Xena wasn’t kidding.’
Xena didn’t answer her; she could see it in her eyes. “They’ve just got her up and running. It’s taken them some time.” She stepped over to stand beside Randal. “They’ve been meeting wherever they could for some time and trying to stay under the radar. They’ve been trying to get some proof and apparently that’s what the Majors were doing here… looking for proof. Unfortunately their deaths are the proof now.”
Gabrielle was finally coming to an understanding of what she had been hearing and seeing. “Their deaths are more than proof… their deaths are exposing the bad seed. The enemy is feeling cocky. They killed the Majors and they see us as no great threat.”
Xena smiled. “That tells me two things, one is that the Majors were considered to be pretty impressive foes and two is that these people don’t know us too well.” Xena looked like she was planning a siege… and she probably was.
“Unfortunately Xena they won’t get the chance to know us.” Xena snapped her head around to look at Gabrielle. “This isn’t our fight dear. We didn’t come her to right the wrongs at a mining facility. We came her to fight Alti. Our grandchildren can fight the battle here. They’ve already started.”
“Yah, and now their dead.” Xena said with a growl.
“But their deaths exposed the beast and gave us some bodies to work with. Now I know why God allowed them to die this way and why we now have their bodies.”
“So you would have us do nothing?” Xena couldn’t believe her ears.
“No, but we can’t die here. We need to fight Alti. This problem seems to be a big deal and for those inside of it, it is a big deal but it’s not our fight.” Gabrielle was wearing her Queen face and was speaking with that kind of authority in her voice.
Xena recognized the look. Her little Bard had come a very long way. “You’re right, this isn’t our fight. But we can give them a leg up.”