Return to Uranus
Harmony continued the training of the girls’ while they waited to leave and even while in route to Uranus. She stressed control… and who could blame her after the incredible number of injuries and the severity of those injuries during the contests? Their class had more injured people with five of the fourteen injured bad enough to be hospitalized than any other class.
“Zealousness is not an excuse for slop.” Harmony would repeat that phrase so much in the next several weeks that it became a mantra for the girls.
Slowly other members of the party bound for Uranus began to drift to Harmony’s class. First her own children joined them, and then came Cadence and her children. Galatia wanted to tell her mother who she was but it never seemed to be the right time and no-one else felt comfortable telling her.
It took only about four days before every member of the party was now training with Harmony and every one of the parents that had been chosen to go were now assisting Harmony with the training. Most of the parents were Amazons, but even if they weren’t the Amazon culture was so familiar to Mars that nearly any citizen could at least follow what was happening. The Amazon parents helped with form and other instruction while those that weren’t Amazons made the meals and tended injuries.
Departure was a week away when Zaria put down her staff and took up a sword and Galatia put down her staff and picked up Sais. They should not be ready to change weapons yet but it was clear by the way that they handled the weapons that they were more than just a little familiar with them.
The day before departure Galatia found a Katana on her bed. She asked her mother where it had come from but Cadence had not a clue. She didn’t think that Galatia was ready for the weapon but Galatia quickly showed her otherwise. Still Cadence did not see what the children were seeing. Still she did not put the pieces together and come to the conclusion that others were reaching. Galatia tried to tell her then… but her sister walked in and the moment was over.
During practice that evening Harmony noted Galatia’s new weapon… how could she not? “Where did you get a Guardian Katana?” She asked innocently. If a Guardian wanted her to have one of their Katana’s then she had no right to question it. But she was curious.
“Is that where it came from? I didn’t know; it was on my bed when I came in yesterday.” Galatia answered.
“You don’t know which one gave it to you then?” Galatia shook her head at Harmony’s question. “Perhaps they will tell you when you two are done hiding.”
“I take it that you don’t approve of us hiding as you put it?” Galatia asked. It was almost a challenge but not quite.
“I think that it’s a waste of energy… and it’s selfish… and perhaps even a bit dangerous. Although I could not tell you how it could be dangerous. It’s just a feeling that I have.” Harmony answered honestly. She had given birth to Xena that event alone gave her courage where others would have waffled. Besides this may be Queen Gabrielle of legend but she was still only a child… at least she looked like one.
Gabrielle couldn’t help but see her point. “We will make ourselves known when we are ready to do so.” Gabrielle knew in her heart that she simply couldn’t tell her mother who she was until after they had retrieved Hope’s body. She didn’t want her mother to see that body and think of her. It would be cruel.
Between training and school, time passed quickly and before they knew it they were entering the orbit of Uranus. It had been a short trip this time for Xena and Gabrielle, only five days. The Amazon Queen II was a magnificent ship. She was larger, faster and more deadly than her predecessor and she was prettier inside and out. Like every other official building or ship it had a private cabin set aside for them, but because they were hiding they could not use it. But they did sneak a peek and make a few suggestions to the GEV unit in the room. It made them verify their identities and they made it promise not to tell.
They all got a pep talk from Clair the next morning before they shuttled down to the planet’s surface. They were split into teams and given quadrants. Xena had made certain that none of the teams would or should come anywhere near Alti’s computer room or where Xena thought that Alti might try to hide to wait out the attack. It was dangerous no matter how they did it.
On the planet Xena and Gabrielle were teamed with Ediva, Rachael, Patricia and Jillian. Their parent was Harmony. Cadence had gone with her younger daughter’s group.
Gabrielle knew exactly where they were going. But she couldn’t just go there. She could see from here that the building was a wreck. “Can you feel her?” She asked Xena. She didn’t have to hide who she was with this group.
“Not very well… she’s far away. But then again we’re at the top of this ridiculous ramp. But I’ll lay odds that she can feel me just fine.” Xena answered with a sneer.
All of the children and their parents headed down the ramp in their groups. The front door was still the only way into the complex. As they neared it they found the huge doors hanging on a couple of rusted hinges. The foyer beyond the doors was filled with debris. The doors that had led off of the foyer were now open but the hallways beyond were not all clear.
Such was not the case for Xena’s little team. They entered the same doorway that Gabrielle had entered nearly forty years ago. There were no torches this time to light their way so they lit their own both fire and electrical torches.
“She’s stronger here. I can feel her.” Xena said and some of their team shivered at the thought.
The hallway seemed longer than Gabrielle remembered… and spookier. The first room that they came to was partially collapsed. They had to crawl over and around parts of the ceiling as well as many toppled columns. All of the windows that had once graced the right hand wall were shattered and nature had claimed part of the once massive room as a nursery for birds, small animals and some thick vegetation. The team avoided all of these things as much as possible. They didn’t have time to figure out what was poisonous or otherwise dangerous.
The other side of the room was a little more stable. The vegetation had managed to crawl across most of the floor but other than that and the many fragments of mirror everywhere it was a bit easier to traverse. Even so they were forced to move slowly and methodically with weapons in hand. Some of the bird like creatures that lived in the room did not appear to appreciate their uninvited guests.
They reached the gaping hole that had once been a doorway. The golden doors were tarnished but intact and lying flat on the floor. Strangely the vegetation and the animals all stopped at the doorway and did not venture beyond even a little. The inside of Alti’s throne room was no less a mess despite the absence of nature’s additions. Even Alti’s throne had been crushed by a massive piece of a column that had once towered over it.
They drew closer to the throne. Xena was walking wearily and everyone took her cue. They fanned out and some of them walked sideways so that they could watch the side doorways. The floor in front of the throne was littered with old bones. But these were not humans… these were those other man lizard things that were part of Alti’s personal army. They had been crushed or otherwise killed when the ceiling had collapsed. Xena walked past them and came to the fireplace that was behind the throne. The fireplace was askew and it revealed a doorway behind it.
With a torch in one hand and her sword in the other Xena entered the room beyond the fireplace. The room was empty but the power was still on. She flicked a few switches and turned on the lights. Gabrielle had followed her into the room and was looking at the monitors and flipping switches. By process of elimination she managed to find the feed that she wanted. Watching even a few seconds of it made her angry beyond compare. Xena reached over her shoulder and shut it off.
“What the…” Gabrielle began angrily.
“Alti feeds off of your anger. That’s how she kills your soul.” Xena flipped a few more switches and entered something onto the keyboard. The machine spit out a memory stick and she took it. “This is it. Now we destroy this crap.”
“Wait… shouldn’t we try and find Alti with it if we can?” Gabrielle asked.
“Hmm, good idea babe, but it’s not for us to do, we’ll get another team to see what they can find.” She took Gabrielle by the hand and turned her around to look at her. “Are you alright?”
“Yes, I’m fine Xena. Let’s get what we came for.” She said without hesitation, but her eyes were darting and her breathing was coarse.
Outside in the throne room Xena addressed her mother. “We got what we needed in there. Could you get another team in here to use that equipment and see if they can find Alti?” Harmony nodded and got on her radio.
Another team rendezvoused with them in less than five minutes. It was a quick matter to explain what they needed and they were off again.
They went out the south door and then immediately cut to their right down a staircase and around another corner to their left. Gabrielle led the way. She went down hallways that became increasingly narrow and down staircases that were crumbling from water erosion and disrepair. She walked without speaking even though those behind her had no problem with carrying on a conversation. She seemed to be in a world of her own. Xena walked at her side without saying a word. She knew that the wrong word could shatter Gabrielle’s calm façade and breaking that calm and exposing that facade would not bode well for their relationship.
Xena would not have been able to remember this route so clearly. She had been in a great deal of pain when she had walked these hallways last. She had been dying. Gabrielle did not have that problem. She had been all too conscious the last time she was here. At the bottom of a narrow staircase Gabrielle stopped. Xena recognized the area. This is where she had over powered her escort. Which meant that around that corner to their left was the room that had been designed by Alti to inflict so much pain and humiliation on her beloved that she would lose her innocence and purity… or so Alti had thought. Alti had always wanted to kill a person’s soul. But she couldn’t kill Gabrielle’s soul it just wasn’t possible, Xena wouldn’t let it happen.