bones on the floor but only enough for one body. Gabrielle drew her Katana; she
had sheathed it somewhere along the route. She and Xena turned the corner as
one. They had no idea what to expect but they didn’t expect what faced them.
nothing in the hallway except bones and scraps of clothing and weapons. The
door that lay beyond the sea of bones was shut and still very much intact.
Gabrielle stepped over the bones at her feet and came face to face with the
door. Harmony stepped up beside her; she had an odd device in her hand.
She said gently. Gabrielle numbly stepped back. Xena put a reassuring hand on
her shoulder. Harmony put the box thing up against the lock and it started to
hum. It hummed for several seconds and then it clicked and the door rattled and
a popping sound was heard from the lock itself. Harmony stepped away from the
door and indicated that Gabrielle and Xena should proceed.
up to the door and Gabrielle depressed the door latch. When it gave way she
pushed on the door. She fully expected it to protest but it merely swung open
silently. She and Xena stepped into the room as one. Five bodies and the foul
odor of decay occupied the room together. The three men
that Xena had struck down to get to her beloved still lay where they had
fallen. Their corpses had partially mummified.
had gotten wet from ground water and had caused most of the putrid smell in the
bodies. But no large rodents had eaten them as had happened elsewhere in the
Castle. The strap that had held Gabrielle by the throat was rusty but still
there. In the corner sat two mummies.
you wanted me to lock the door. Just in case someone survived and wanted to
move the bodies.” Xena finally understood that Gabrielle had known even then
that she was having trouble leaving this body here.
“Yes… and so
they wouldn’t be eaten.” She walked over to the mummies. She had to step over the
man that Xena had decapitated. His head had rolled up against the back wall.
She and Xena
were as they had been. Xena in Amy’s body was holding Gabrielle in Hope’s body.
Hope’s body was covered by a thin blanket that trailed over and covered part of
Amy’s body as well. Amy was clothed but her uniform blouse and her med cloth
had been removed. It was clear by the discoloration that both bodies had
sustained massive damage before they had succumbed to death.
gurneys floated up behind them. The rest of the team was silent. They looked
around the room and fixed everything in their minds. None of them had expected
to see such a scene and certainly they had hoped never to experience such a
don’t understand.” Gabrielle said.
you understand Gabrielle?” Xena was a bit confused. She could see nothing that
looked confusing to her.
us that Alti would return many times and that we would always be there to fight
her. So why… how did we lose?” She was shaking her head.
her arms around Gabrielle’s waist. “Nayima said that we would be there to fight her, she didn’t say that we would
always win.” She laid a gentle kiss on Gabrielle’s cheek. “Besides we really
screwed the pooch on this one.”
spun in her arms and scowled at her. “What do you mean by that?” Her voiced
betrayed her anger.
away from her and smiled. “We had the perfect set up. The bodies were not being
used by anyone. My family had produced five women that were incredibly
successful at destroying things and they were more than willing to help us.
Alti had been a problem for close to a hundred years and it didn’t look like
she was going to get any worse. And instead of weighing all of the options and
forcing her to come to us… we rushed in and got ourselves killed.”
shut her eyes when the realization dawned upon her. “We didn’t have to run in
on her in her lair. We could have sat back and waited for her to make a foolish
move.” She got a look of disgust on her face. “When did we become so arrogant?”
chuckled. “I don’t know but we need to knock that shit off and get down to some
nodded and turned to look down at the two bodies once again.
get this done.” Xena said quietly and she stepped up to the bodies.
lifted the blanket. The movement caused the trapped odors of decay that were
still at work to escape. The smell was nearly overpowering and it was
nauseating. More than ordinary decay had been working on Hope’s body. She had
been manhandled by the hands and bodies of filthy men that were not truly men. Parts
of the body had decayed quicker than others. Some other agent had been at work
to cause such a reaction. Xena nearly vomited on the spot and would not allow
anyone else to see the condition of the body. She hastily dropped the blanket
back down where it still covered the majority of Hope’s body.
leaving that there. Help me lay out a sheet. We’ll wrap her here.” Xena had
turned to speak to anyone but Gabrielle. “And everyone put on your Hazmat
suits.” They all had brought a pack that had a portable Hazmat suit. They had
hoped for the best but not gotten it.
had seen her reaction. She would not be deterred. She stepped up to the body
and leaned down to lift the blanket. Xena gently spoke her name. “Gabrielle”
She looked up at her soul mate and nearly stopped but Gabrielle had to see. She
had to know. She lifted the blanket and steeled her nerves and swallowed her
stomach. It was as if the body had been covered in a thick orange red fungus.
It was thicker in some places… presumably because those places had been exposed
to more of whatever had caused this in the first place.
Xena and the
team were all watching Gabrielle. Xena was impressed and saddened that
Gabrielle did not flinch. She looked at the body with a clinical eye. It
couldn’t be that easy for her, but she put on the bravest face that she had
ever seen from her. “Gabrielle” She said again.
gently put the blanket down over the body and turned to Xena and the room of
“Do you think that the body will hold together long enough to
know but I think that we’re going to find out.” Xena replied.
stepped outside to change. When they had accomplished the task they stepped
back into the room.
carefully laid out two burial sheets, one on top of the other on the floor
right beside the bodies. Xena took the feet, Gabrielle took the shoulders and
Rachael slowly and carefully ran her hands under the back. Gently they lifted
and slowly moved the broken and putrefying body to the floor. None of them
dared to move their grip lest the sudden change of pressure be the proverbial
straw. They shuffled quickly but smoothly and managed to get the body onto the
body was down Xena ordered Rachael to step back and she and Gabrielle removed
the blanket and tossed it against the wall. They wrapped one sheet around the
body like a mummy’s wrapping, tightly securing the body within the confines of
the specially treated burial sheet. Amazons cremated their dead so their burial
sheets were soaked in a slow burning flammable liquid. It was a special recipe
that had been passed down for thousands of years. The sheet would contain
whatever fluids that might come from the body and when the time came it would
help the body to burn completely in the flames.
had tightly wrapped the body in the first sheet they applied the second sheet.
For this to be successful they would need to roll the body into it. This meant
that the help of the rest of the team was now required. But now that they body
was contained Gabrielle no longer felt the need to protect her like that.
body was secure in its wraps it was placed into a body bag for easy handling
and then it was strapped to the floating gurney and pushed aside so that they
could deal with the second body.
was just as difficult to handle for very different reasons. She had been
bloated by blood and because of the damp and unusual conditions she was still
partially full of fluid and yet parts of her were completely locked into a
lifted the body and literally sat it onto the first sheet. They had to
carefully and slowly break Amy’s body at the hips so that it would lay flat.
This action broke through her abdomen where there was still liquid. But the
fluid that came out didn’t look like any human bodily fluid that anyone had
ever seen. It was strangely tinged orange like the fungus. They were careful
not to spill any of it outside of the sheet.
her neck and arms to get them into the sheet and wrapped quickly to contain the
odd fluids that were seeping from her opened abdomen and her clothing. What
they had been able to see on Hope’s body was probably happening to Amy’s body
as well. They just couldn’t see past the clothing. Only on her stomach area
where Hope had been laying did they actually see any signs of the orange red
had Amy’s body double wrapped and in its own body bag and strapped to a gurney.
The team left
the room with Xena leading the way with her hand on the front Amy’s gurney.
Gabrielle led Hope’s gurney behind Xena. She did not look back.
emerged from the Castle they were still clad in the hazmat suits. No-one
offered to relieve them of their burdens. They all knew what the Hazmat suits
signified. They led the gurneys to the shuttles and secured them in a portable
freezer unit and proceeded to the decontamination unit.