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Teresa M Shafer - For books that kindle thought and ignite the imagination!
Bring it on 

A week passed before Xena and Gabrielle took a quick trip to Uranus. They flew two shuttles to the surface. One was a simple drop ship the other was a long range transport. They landed both on the ramp. 

Not much had changed in the past five years. The surface temperature seemed to be a bit warmer than last they were here but that could just be the season. The two young women didn’t waste any time walking down the mile long ramp. They looked very much like they had millennia ago. Xena had grown out her raven black hair and cut sweeping bangs into the front so that her brilliant cold blue eyes were framed in black. Her body was lithe and strong and only partially covered by the modified uniform that she wore. Her arms were completely exposed and her pants and shirt were loose fitting. The only thing that fit her snuggly was the med cloth suit that hugged her body from bodice to toes. 

Gabrielle had cut her golden hair in a long sweeping wave from the top of her head down to her right shoulder, it parted where it wanted and it usually parted unevenly on the left side. Her smaller body was compact and tight and she liked to show it off. Her clothing was more revealing than Xena’s. Gabrielle preferred to style her med cloth into an actual shirt that fitted her form like a shiny black tank top. Her pants were the standard cut military cargo pants and they were tucked into tight black boots just as Xena’s.

The real difference for them was the leather armbands that Xena had on her upper arms and the leather cuffs that she wore on her forearms. Gabrielle had silver armbands and wide silver cuffs on her forearms. They also had a unique array of weapons. Neither cared much for Pulse Rifles; they preferred their combat up close and personal. The pulse weapons had been issued and their weapons were personalized but they did not carry them today. Today they carried their swords, Xena had her many folded Greek sword, the gift that she had gotten from Belle so long ago and Gabrielle carried her Katana, the one that had been a gift from a Guardian. The Katana that she had carried to this place before, she had returned to the owner’s granddaughter. Gabrielle also carried her Sais, the ones that Thor had made for her; neither expected to need any of them. They weren’t over confident and they weren’t expecting others to fight for them even though they had two squads of Guardians and an entire platoon of Marines lining the area not to mention the ship in orbit or all of its Fighters. They expected Alti to simply engage them in conversation, throw some insults around and then promise to meet then on the Steppes.

They entered the front portal and stopped in the foyer. Years ago they had been unsuccessful in finding where Alti had gone using the camera system. Today they simply used their own senses. They listened with their ears and with their minds. Slowly they turned towards the hallway that they were so familiar with and walked towards it. They walked down the hallway about twenty feet when they both stopped and turned towards their right. “There’s a doorway here.” Xena said as she approached what looked like solid wall.

“I know I can feel the air.” Gabrielle could feel a cool stream of air playing with her hair.

They searched the wall and found a latch. A doorway swung open with a definite grinding sound. They stepped through and found themselves in another hallway; at least this one was short. The end was clearly defined by a proverbial light at the end, neither hesitated to walk towards the light. The doorway at the end of this hall was a gaping hole that was strewn with rocks and debris. They climbed over the mess to stand in a room. It looked as if it had been a bed chamber at one time but the ceiling had collapsed onto the bed and left only tattered cloth and splintered wood as any evidence of the furniture that had once sat there.

But they were not interested in the bed or even in the room. They were interested in whatever was behind yet another pile of rock. It was Alti that was behind that pile.

“Hmmm Alti, I can’t say that I like what you’ve done with the place.” Xena said to thin air, while she scanned every nook and cranny of the room.

“Nope, not so much… it’s got that too lived in and then discarded feeling to it.” Gabrielle added.

The sound of cackling filled the room. It echoed off of the partial walls. The heroes spun to stare at the pile of rocks. “So now you’re interior decorators? I wish that I had known when I was designing the interior.” The voice was that of a Demon but it was still recognizable as Alti.

“Yes well, it’s a newly developed talent.” Gabrielle responded.

“How’s your sister Gabrielle?” Alti tried to anger her.

“She’s still breathing thank you, and how’s the décor on your side of the rock pile Alti?” Gabrielle was not even remotely ruffled.

“Oh, I’ve made a home of it.” She paused and they could hear that she was moving around. “So Xena are you two ready?” She didn’t need to elaborate.

“Yeah, we’re ready… are you?” Xena snarled for her. She knew that if she sounded too serene that Alti would grow suspicious.

“Oh Xena, I’m always ready for you.” She almost sounded like the woman that had whispered promises in Xena’s ear. “I’ve always wondered Xena, why did you throw away my promise for her?” It was almost as if she could read Xena’s thoughts, but she knew that whenever they were together the old memories would always come to the surface.

“I didn’t give up you or your promises for Gabrielle. I changed my ways and started working for good, for Gabrielle. But I gave up pursuing your promises for the love of a child. You tried to take that from me because you knew that a child would make me want to turn my life around and you were right. It just took some time for me to realize just how right you were.” Xena remained calm. They had practiced this conversation too.

“But that child died young and he never knew your love.” She growled.

“He did die young Alti. But our God gave him a new life and allowed him to live again.” Xena replied.

Alti was clearly surprised. “You gave birth to him again? Did he know who he was?” She sounded desperate to know the answer.

“No Alti I did not give birth to him and even though he knew who he was… your curse held. He never knew the love of his mother… of me.” Alti cackled in glee. “But that doesn’t mean that he didn’t know that he had it anyway. I carried his memory with me for eons and I loved him every second of it… and he knew that and he loved me just as much. I still love him and he loves me.” The cackling stopped.

“You see Alti, all of your hatred and your scheming can’t stop love. You can’t drown the light with your darkness and you can’t stop love with your hatred.” Gabrielle finished Xena’s thought.

Alti was silent for a long moment… then she began to growl and slowly the growl became a howl and then a scream. She was defiantly a little pissed off. “We’ll see Gabrielle, we’ll see!”

“Meet us on the Steppes Alti. We’re leaving you a shuttle if you don’t want to fly. We don’t care really. Uranus is on the far side of the sun from Earth right now so it’ll take us a few weeks to reach it. But we’ll leave now. That should give you a couple of weeks to dig yourself out.” Xena really had nothing more to say and Alti seemed to have run out of words as well.

The soul mates walked out of the Castle and boarded their ship and left without incident. They felt a calmness in their souls that neither had ever felt before. That is how they knew that they were ready to face this evil for once and for all. Before there had always been some great volatile emotion to fuel the fire, but this time the fire was fueled only by love. Love could burst into flames but it wasn’t the kind of emotion that would leave you empty. It tended to burn away everything else and leave you with a clean and peaceful soul. They would not be facing Alti with any desires for destroying her or for power or hatred or revenge, they would be facing her out of love. She needed to be stopped or others would die or be hurt, used or abused by her. Out of love for those unnamed and faceless people, Xena and Gabrielle would fight Alti and hopefully defeat her so that others could live free of her taint.