Xena and Gabrielle listened to a few more updates from Cara and Margo; there were a total of five recordings that the two women had left for the heroes. Xena and Gabrielle had watched them all but one in the first day of their two day trip to Mars.
They learned about Cara’s children and how they had grown and what they had done in their lives from their mother’s point of view. She was of course very proud of them. Margo had remarried and had another daughter. Who also was spoken of with the love of a mother shining through.
The strange bond that Xena and Gabrielle had passed on or left with Cara and Margo did manage to get passed on to their children at least in part. The children could feel the presence of the others from a great distance but they could not touch the weapons without getting burned. It seemed that only those that had actually touched the souls of Xena and Gabrielle could touch the weapons that seemed to have asoul of their own.
There was little else that their former hosts could tell them that they couldn’t find out from the histories or by just talking to their descendants. Cara and Margo had done and exemplary job in making certain that information was passed down from one generation to the next and that everyone was properly trained and educated. In fact all of Mars now knew who the families were and what their rolls in history had been and would be in the future. The entire population of the planet wasdedicated to serving their Royal Families. They were insulated, protected, loved and unfortunately targeted.
Margo’s daughter Ren eventually became Queen of the Amazons. It was a job that she had been born tohave and it was the greatest joy of her life. Cara’s daughters Laura and Sandytook over the Marines and the Corporation respectively when they came of age.This left Cara and Margo the time to actually run the planet and its nowconsiderable holdings. Other than some personal stuff this was the extent ofany information that they passed on through these videos.
After having a lightmeal and anticipating planet fall in about four hours Xena and Gabriellestarted the last video. It was clear right from the beginning that this videowas different than the previous ones. This one had been made much later. Thegap between the last one and this one was considerable.
As the video startedCara’s face filled the screen, it was the face of an old woman. She was tiredboth in body and mind and perhaps in spirit as well… it showed. Her eyelidsdrooped lazily over her brilliant hazel eyes and her movements were slow andmethodical as if any quick movement would bring pain. It hurt the heroes to seethe once young and vibrant woman in this state. Inevitability be damned.
“I wanted to speak toyou one last time my friends.” Cara said in a weak but clear voice. “As you cansee my time is near. You apparently left us with that gift as well. I can feelmy body running down. I will not see the dawn.” She was simply stating facts.Cara had accepted what must come to all living souls. “I would have left youwith the image of me as a younger woman in your mind’s eye… had it not been forrecent developments.” She beckoned with an outstretched hand to someone behindthe camera. Margo joined her to sit in a chair at her side. She also waslooking old and tired. They smiled knowingly at one another. “Margo will notsee the dawn either.” Cara said while still looking at her friend.
Cara shifted in herseat and looked at the glass case behind her. She gently touched the glass overthe Katana and smiled wistfully. “It’s a magnificent weapon.” Her voice wasalmost a whisper. She turned back to the camera. “They recorded the fight withAlti. Ask to see it. We were magnificent Gabrielle!” Her voice had grown involume with her excitement from the memory. But when the excitement was spent her voice died down quickly to the soft tired voice again. “We were so young… I wasso young… and angry.” She looked again at the silent Margo. “Now we know whatyou two must feel. We look back at our lives with pride… and melancholy. The memories threaten to drown us sometimes. Yet you must feel this pain all thetime. How strong you must be to look back on your lives and remember peoplethat have long since perished. I’m having trouble with only one life.” Shestopped again and shook her head minutely.
“But my mind wanders.This was not the reason that we decided to make this last video.” For a momentmore she collected her thoughts. “Ladies, I’ve heard rumor about a woman thatcame out of nowhere. She has no history that can be found and she is said to bebeautiful and dangerous like a Cobra. Some call her a Witch while others callher a Warrior and yet others call her a scourge on humanity. We have beentrying to corner her or capture her but she is slippery like a Martian blindeel.” Cara stopped to catch her breath or her thoughts.
“I call them rumorsbecause we have never seen her. All we have are reports of reports of sightingsand the evidence of her passage. Ares cannot catch her. He has tried to pop inon her but it’s like she knows that he’s coming and she’s never there.” Caraworried her lower lip a bit with her teeth. Clearly whoever this woman was, shescared Cara. “She has an army that follows her but none have ever been caughtalive and if they were they weren’t alive for long. They all take their ownlives.” She rubbed her hands over her face in an all too familiar way.
“The last report that wegot was this morning… a few hours ago. I’ve tried to verify it but… anyway, itis said that she and her small army blasted their way into a space port inAthens. They took every ship that they could get to fly and left. Some of thoseships were shot down but the vast majority got away. They headed out into thesolar system. We have no idea what their final destination will be.” She breathed in deeply and sat up straight. “We thought that you should know this.We have no doubt that it is Alti in yet another new body. We had hoped that with her reappearance you would be soon in returning… but we always knew that this was a vain hope.” Once again she looked over at Margo and tears sprang toMargo’s eyes and fell like raindrops onto her hands. Cara reached over and tookher hand. For a long minute they sat there looking at one another holding hands.
Xena looked at the two women that had one shared a few days with her and her beloved. “And to think that Cara once thought of Margo as an idiot and wouldn’t even speak to her.”She said while the video played on.
“We all thought that she was an idiot. She proved us all wrong.”Gabrielle sighed. It was hard for her to watch this scene of absolute love andtrust play out on the screen. Not because she was offended but because she knewwhat was in Cara’s heart and she was also keenly aware that this was a scene from the past. Cara and Margo had died more than a hundred years ago.
“But now… or then, because of us they were joined together by their hearts and souls… how awkward that must have been for them.” Xena left the thought half finished.
“To feel the bond of a soul mate… were they soul mates or did they just feel like they were? God how did they bear it?” Gabrielle finished Xena’s thought as if it had been her own.
Xena just shook her head and held Gabrielle’s hand all the tighter. Cara stopped gazing into Margo’s eyes and turned back to the camera. “We don’t know what you did to us.We don’t know if these feelings are ours or yours. We tried to live as if theywere yours because we didn’t have them before you came but we also didn’t spend any time together before you came. I guess we’ll just have to let God sort itout for us.” It was as if she had heard Xena and Gabrielle speaking through time. “Anyway we want to spend some time with our families and a bit more witheach other before we lay down… We both hope that God will allow us to see you again… perhaps between one task and another or something. If not… or even ifso… We want you to know that you were one of the great highlights of our lives.So much of who we are would never have been without your influence and help.Thank you again for being our friends… and we were and are so very proud to be your grandchildren. We love you both, goodbye.” With that the two elderly women stood and walked toward the camera and the screen went dark.
Gabrielle was holding her hand to her mouth and tears were falling from her red rimmed eyes. “You two are forbidden to ever speak of what you just saw!” She said to Clair and Captain Gellman. “I command it as a Queen of the Amazons.” She had started out speaking clearly but the sob in her throat made her force the last few words out. “Oh Cara… Margo…” She turned her head and buried her face in Xena’s waiting shoulder.
Xena was just as moved by what she had just witnessed. “Bless Cara’s stubborn heart for trying to spare us a trip.” She had to know that she couldn’t take on Alti, but she had tried anyway. “They were extraordinary women. I don’t know if I would remain sane if you had chosen to live your life with another and it had actually happened.” She remembered that at one time Gabrielle had chosen to live her life with another, but Callisto had put an end to that dream. Xena had known even then that she was hopelessly in love with Gabrielle but Gabrielle hadn’t realized that she was in love with Xena yet. Xena guiltily and secretly thanked Callisto for giving her a second chance with Gabrielle. Xena would have gladly given her life to allow Gabrielle to have her marriage… but the fates or someone higher had intervened…
Clair motioned Captain Gellman out of the room and intended to follow her. But Gabrielle’s muffled voice stopped them in their tracks. “Don’t you move!” She pulled her head off of Xena’s shoulder and wiped her face on her sleeve. “Now you will tell us what we’re up against.” It was a command that would not be denied. Gabrielle didn’t want to miss anything. She couldn’t take the chance that Hope’s mind didn’t contain everything.
Neither woman returned to their seats. Instead they stood with their hands behind their backs and their feet shoulder width apart before the seated Xena and Gabrielle. Clair seemed to think for a moment. “The woman that Queen Cara spoke of, she took those ships and hence her army to Uranus. It was newly being developed and had a working bio-dome and a small colony at the time. She moved in and communication was lost to the colony within a day. Shortly after that all traffic to and from the planet was restricted. The planet had no export at the time so Earth, who owned it, figured that they could starve her out. That plan did not work well. Earth owned and has maintained outposts on many of the moons of Saturn and Jupiter for quite a while. The renegade woman simply took what she wanted from the moons. Earth Force was spread thin, even with the aid of Luna they could not possibly prevent her from raiding wherever she wished.” She paused because she thought that Xena was going to ask a question, but she did not.
“They tried to blockade the planet but with every raid their numbers increased and Earth Force and the Luna Marines were too few to combat their growing numbers. Mars saw that the combined might of Earth and Luna would be crushed under her heel soon. We sent fighters and battleships to aid them. We were able to retrieve less than half of their number. The Uraninian ships saw Mars coming with a mighty fleet and they were not prepared to take us on so they attacked the standing Earth and Luna blockade before we could reach them. When we got there it was no longer a battle so much as it was a search and rescue operation. Since then it has been all anyone can do to keep her raiders out of their territory. We have more success with the blatant attempts at incursion but as I’m sure you have realized we have some trouble with spies and infiltrators.” Clair had finished her oratory so she stood in silence, eyes forward awaiting instruction.
Xena admired the discipline of the Amazon Marines. She considered what Clair had said and absently wondered why this information had not been in Amy’s mind. “Tell me what she has done with Uranus.”
Without looking at her Clair answered the question. “Uranus now has a complete oxygen / hydrogen atmosphere. The planet is heated by thermal cores. They are basically nuclear power plants that are cooled by the natural stone in which they sit. They produce thermal heat that is released into the atmosphere to keep the surface of the planet warm. The latest pictures of the one main population area on the planet show a large Castle style structure that has only one clear entrance. It has a large city built around it. The Castle structure is said to be protected by pulse cannons and an energy grid both above the highest tower and below the lowest floor. No-one enters the Castle without an invitation unless they are a prisoner. No prisoner has ever been known to leave the Castle… not even in a box. It is said that the aliens that she had with her last time have joined heron the planet but there are no verifiable sightings of them. There has been however sightings of a strange creature that bears a resemblance to a large wolf but it moves like a cat and has teeth like a piranha. They apparently are seen in and around the Castle. There have also been some… confusing reports of the humans that serve in the Castle as guard. It is said that they are not…right. They are said to be human and yet distinctly not human. I have no idea what to make of these reports. But a report that has been verified by many has said that the woman Alti is more than just a little mad… as in crazy.”
“She was well on her way the last time that I spoke with her.” Gabrielle shivered a little at the memory.
Xena also remembered how Alti acted the last time that she had seen her. Gabrielle was right; Alti was losing her grip on who she had been. She was becoming a demon… and that is when it hit her… a Demon is exactly what she was becoming. Alti would be a Demon in the flesh. She would be a Demon that could directly torture and destroy beings of the flesh. That is why she was an evil that must be destroyed and it was yet another reason why they had to be the ones to destroy her. Xena had been a Demon and Gabrielle had been on her way to becoming one. They both understood the power and the lure of the darkness… it was intoxicating. But like other things that caused a human of flesh and blood to become intoxicated it also ate away at everything that made a person human and turned them into something else. It had been the innocent blood of Cyane and the Amazon leaders that had been the final straw for Alti. After that the intoxication of power had been all she needed to continue the transformation.
Gabrielle knew the look that was on Xena’s face. She was having an epiphany and should not be disturbed so she sat quietly waiting for Xena to work through whatever she had hit upon.Xena was a brilliant woman and she was a warm and loving woman despite any assumptions made from her dark past. Gabrielle had always admired her strength, her beauty, her gentleness, her intelligence and her deep loving heart and how she had managed to mix them all together into one amazing woman. This was her Xena, her beloved soul mate… sometimes Gabrielle thought that she should burst for all the love that she felt for Xena. But she never did… so she just loved her more.
Gabrielle must have been giving Xena one of those long loving looks because when Xena was done thinking and once again focused on her partner her eyes immediately softened and she smiled shyly. It was a quick moment between them and despite the fact that the other two women in the room had not moved they still saw from the corner of their eyes and made silent mental notes. As for Xena she now had an inkling of how to kill Alti once and for good. She still had to work out some details but the idea was forming.
“Is there something that you would like to share dear?” Gabrielle asked quietly.
“Hmm, not yet… but soon…right now we need to get to Mars. Take a seat ladies. We still have a few hours to go.” She settled back against the cushion and lifted the arm rest that was between her and Gabrielle and pulled her beloved over to her. Xena had an idea how to kill Alti and it made her feel a bit better but there was still that nagging feeling that things were just weird this time around. So she held her woman close while they watched a few episodes of Xena: The Warrior Princess on the video and laughed at the now ancient interpretation of Gabrielle’s scrolls.