Disclaimers: The characters of Xena, Gabrielle, Lao Ma, Alti, Borias, and everyone else who sounds familiar belong to Pac Ren and Universal Studios. I am not making money off of this story.
Genre Disclaimer: Ok. Bear with me, please, because this is kinda tough to explain. Sometime last year, I read a story on the internet that moved me so much, I was inspired to write a sort of companion piece to it. That story was "Lost Soul Walking" by DJWP. In her words, "This is NOT UberXena fiction. It just starts out like it is." The same can be said for this piece. While not directly related to "Lost Soul Walking", "Desert Storm" can be considered a sort of prequel to it. It is a story, if you will, about the lifetime before the one depicted in that fabulous, outstanding story. (Can you tell I loved it?) In addition, this is somewhat of an ambitious piece of fiction, in that I am attempting (dont know if Ive succeeded, but Ive attempted) to take the entire X:WP universe and modernize it. We start, in updated terms, with my version of Xenas betrayal by Caesar (seen in "Destiny"), and continue up through the X:WP episode known as "Remember Nothing". The plot will be very recognizable to you. Its meant to be that way.
Special note: Because of this, Gabrielle does not appear, except in offhand mention, in a great deal of the first half of this story. Do not look for her, because you wont find her. After all, she was not a part of evil Xenas life. If she were, things might have turned out differently, but because this is based on the premise of "Lost Soul Walking" it cannot happen differently. Gabrielle will, however, make her presence known, and that quite strongly, in the second half of the story. If you can hang on till then, I believe that you will not be disappointed.
Sexuality and Violence Disclaimers: Were dealing with an updated dark Xena through much of the first half, and an updated redeemed Xena through the second. Theres gonna be violence. There are gonna be naughty words. There are also descriptions of sexual activity in this work. There are allusions to heterosexual sex, but nothing graphic. There are some graphic (though I hope tasteful) scenes of sexual expression between women as well. That is how I see the relationship between Xena and Gabrielle, and that is how I will continue to write it.
And, finally, thanks: To, as always, the incomparable Mike. A better beta and a better friend one could never hope for. Thank you also, as always, to Mary D, who rescued this story from the refuse heap and begged me to keep going on it. If you hate it, blame her. <w> Grateful and heartfelt appreciation goes out to DJWP, for continuing to write stories that grab me somewhere above the liver and giving her kind permission to mention her story in these disclaimers. If you havent read her stories, please, do yourself a favor and do so. Finally, this story is dedicated to a group of people without whom I would most probably be living on the streets. Elizabeth, Rachel, Sulli, and the rest of the "Get Sue to Atlanta" crew, this ones for you!
Feedback: As always is gratefully appreciated. If you wrote to me regarding "Redemption" during the month of September to early October and I havent responded, please allow me the honor of apologizing in public. It was then that I was at my lowest point and making ready to move to my new home. Your words of praise and encouragement for my writing kept me firmly out of the pit of depression I was falling into and I shall be forever grateful to each and every one of you who took the time out to feed this bard. And for those of you patiently (or not so patiently) waiting for Redemptions sequel, fear not, for with the conclusion of this piece, that piece will be started. Any and all who wish to may write me atSwordnQuil@aol.com. Ill continue to do my best to answer each and every email. An exploding mailbox is a good thing to have. Thanks again!
by: SwordnQuill (Susanne Beck)
PART THREE: Adventures in the Death Trade
"Help me. And I will make you Destroyer of Nations." Alti: Adventures in the Sin Trade
23 December 1991 Rodriguez Compound Medellin, Colombia
With only two days to go before Christmas, Medellin was ablaze in the colors of the season. Churches, storefronts and houses all displayed their finery in preparation for the holidays celebration.
Within the heavily walled confines of the Rodriguez compound, however, the air was more funerary than festive. The bedroom, in particular, had taken on the look of a dismal cavern. Heavy curtains masked the large windows, blocking out the bright Colombian sun. In the fireplace, a cheerless fire blazed, the flames light reaching out and turning a glass of Cabernet sitting on the table the color of freshly spilled blood.
Kael sat slumped in a chair facing the fireplace, staring blindly into the flames as if trying to divine the meaning of her existence from the shifting patterns of light and shadow.
Just outside the doorway, Geraldo stood, watching Kael watch the fire, uneasy down to his very soul. She had been like this for months, now; ever since the harrowing escape from China. Lao Mas death seemed to have extinguished whatever tiny bit of light had dared to live within her. This new Kael was more cruel, more ruthless, more utterly heartless than ever before. It was as if causing pain, anguish and death was the only thing keeping her own demons at bay.
When she wasnt on some killing spree, Kael sequestered herself in the bedroom, staring blindly at nothing for long hours. She hardly spoke at all anymore, except for a few tersely voiced commands which she issued to friends and enemies alike.
Her soul seemed a dead and rotting thing.
But still, for all that, Geraldo found himself still desperately in love with the woman. His heart was a traitorous thing, not even his own anymore.
"Stop staring at me before I take your eyes out with this poker," Kael spat out without ever turning her head from the fire.
Biting back a sigh, Geraldo stepped fully into the room, closing the distance between them in several long strides. Careful to stay out of touching distance, something the woman, of late, detested except for those times when the lust of killing led her to take him to their bed and wear out his mind and body with the heat of her blazing passion, Geraldo looked down at Kaels bowed head. "Im due at a meeting shortly. I would like it if you would join me," he said quietly.
Kael slowly turned her cold, dead eyes toward him. Her lip curled slightly. "Does this meeting involve bloodshed?"
"Then get the fuck outta here. Im not interested." She turned back to the fire.
"Youre never interested in anything anymore! Except killing."
Kael snorted. "Smart boy you are, Einstein. It took you this long to figure that out?"
"Kael, please. Diego Cordova has asked to meet with us. I think it would be interesting to see what he has to say."
"The only thing interesting about Diego Cordova is how high hell scream when I pull his balls out by the roots."
"He has important connections in Indonesia. It might be valuable to us to form an alliance with him."
The dark head shook. "Thats all youre good for anymore, Geraldo. Talk. Wheres the man who used to have the jewels to rip the hearts out of assholes like Cordova, huh? That useless piece of shit is so far beneath you that hed have to look up to see the soles of your shoes, and yet you want to talk to him. Form an alliance with him." She threw up her hands in disgust, still staring into the fire. "Youre a weak, pathetic excuse for a man, Geraldo. A spineless jellyfish is what youve become. You make me sick."
"Kael . . . ." Anything further Geraldo might have said was interrupted by the chiming of the door. The jaunty tune trailed off to silence, only to start up again, bare seconds later. And then again.
Kael snapped her head around, her eyes narrow and murderous. "Where the fuck is the hired help, Geraldo? Packed off to their little families to spread some Christmas cheer?"
The look on Geraldos face was all the answer she needed. She blew out a disgusted breath and rose from her chair as the door chime rang yet again.
"Ill get it," Geraldo offered.
Kael smirked, patting his face as she passed by. "No, thats alright. I wouldnt want you to strain yourself, little man. Just relax and rest up for that great meeting of the minds youre gonna have."
Leaving Geraldo to stand impotently in the darkened bedroom, Kael made her way down the winding staircase, her ire ratcheting up another notch each time the doorbell rang. She found herself wishing the caller was a religious fundamentalist hoping to teach her the error of her heathen ways. She would have fun teaching them the true meaning of the word righteous.
Coming to the bottom of the stairs, she crossed the floor quickly, then grasped the door handle, yanking the door open savagely, rage painting her face in harsh tones.
Kael, whose unusual height made it rare for her to have to look up into the eyes of anyone, especially another woman, found herself doing just that as she froze in mid snarl. The woman facing her topped her by a good two inches and was, to put it simply, gorgeous. She was tall and sleek, her curves absolutely dangerous. Her hair was a gentle brown, long, and soft-looking as it was drawn away from the striking features of her face. Her lips were a bit too misshapen, her cheeks a little too sharp to give her a classic beauty, but her deep caramel eyes, accented by heavy eyeliner, more than made up for it, in Kaels book. And that body . . . . "What do you want?" she asked finally, in a tone far less harsh than she had at first intended.
The woman cocked her head, her entire essence rippling with barely repressed sensuality. She smiled. "You." Her voice was low and whispery, with a whiskey and cigarettes hoarseness that made Kaels already surging hormones stand up and take gleeful notice.
"Me, huh?" Kael made a show of eyeing the entire package, slowly, lewdly.
The grin broadened. One long, slender finger drew itself down the middle of Kaels broad chest. "Oh, yes," the woman purred. "Well have a lot of fun together, you and I." The finger dipped into the waistband of Kaels slacks, tugging slightly. "More fun than you ever dreamed."
Kaels eyes narrowed as a dark smile bloomed on her face. "So, you know whats in my dreams, do you?"
"Oh yes," the woman said again, her finger now trailing along Kaels strong jawbone. "Full of such delicious imagery. Rage. Death. Fear. A veritable feeding ground for the senses."
Cobra-quick, Kael reached up and snatched the strangers hand away from her face. Their eyes met and locked, each soul feeding off the palpable darkness in the other.
They might have stood that way forever, locked in an unending feedback loop of mutual rage, had Geraldo not chosen just that moment to make his presence felt behind Kael.
"Youre beginning to irritate me, Geraldo," the American growled, still looking at the strange woman who had captured her interest. "And I really dont think you wanna go there right now."
Taking a chance, Geraldo put his hand on Kaels shoulder and squeezed. "I need to talk with you," he whispered in her ear.
"So talk," Kael replied, managing only by the smallest of margins to keep from turning and ripping his face off.
"Not here. Inside. Alone."
The other woman smiled, gently disengaging her grip from the beautiful Americans. "Talk to your friend. Ill wait right here."
"You do that." Grabbing Geraldos hand, she flung it off her shoulder and turned, pushing him back into the house and closing the door behind her. "Spit it out," she demanded.
"Do you know that woman?"
A corner of Kaels mouth crooked up. "No. We havent been properly introduced. Yet."
"If you know whats good for you, youll keep it that way. She is nothing but trouble."
Kaels grin broadened. "Well, you know how much I like trouble."
"Not her kind. Shes a Santeria priestess. A very dark and dangerous one. She is responsible for the destruction of the Villa family. She made them believe that they were invisible to the police and that bullets couldnt hurt them. The police came and killed them in their beds."
Kael snorted. "They deserved it for being such idiots, then."
"She is evil, Kael. Her words are all lies, but she has the power to make you believe them. I forbid you to let her come into this house."
Ice blue eyes narrowed dangerously. "You . . .forbid. . . me?"
Geraldo stood his ground. "Yes. I will not have that woman in this house, corrupting it. Corrupting you. I love you, Kael. Shouldnt that count for something?"
"Not with me, it doesnt. Love makes you weak. It makes you soft. Just like youve become, Geraldo. Worthless. So just go to your stupid meetings and hash out your stupid deals and let me take care of my own business, hmmm?"
Frustrated beyond all good sense, the Latin man lifted his arm, his eyes flashing his anger at the impudent American.
"Lay one finger on me, and Ill make sure you never touch another living thing again, Geraldo."
His teeth clenched, Geraldo curled his hand into a fist and stood there, his entire body trembling with the need to lash out at something . . .anything, just to release the building frustration. The woman who had gone to China with him had died somewhere along the way. In her place, a stranger stood. A stranger who Geraldo both loved and loathed. That he feared her was beyond question. That he was scared for her was likewise true. He felt lost in a way that was foreign to him, and that made him angry, bitter, and frustrated beyond all good sense.
Angered past the ability to make a rational decision, Geraldo allowed his fist to swing down, intending to, if nothing else, get in one good blow before Kael could think to block and retaliate.
Kael saw it coming, and backed her head out of the way, allowing Geraldos arm to move past her before using the opening his wild swing left to lift her own arms and, fingers extended, jab at the pulse-points in his neck.
Geraldo collapsed to his knees as the fight left his body.
Kael squatted down in front of her dark lover, sneering. "Ive just cut off the flow of blood to that thing you call a brain. Any last requests?"
The Latin felt a warm trickle as a thin stream of blood left one nostril to pool at his upper lip. "Please," he gasped.
He gasped, choking on the blood seeping into his mouth.
"Speak up, Geraldo. Cant hear you when you mumble, ya know."
"Please," he whispered again. "Dont . . . ."
"Dont what? Dont defend myself when you go after me like a rabid dog? Dont demand my right to have anyone in this house that I please? What? Help me out here." She grinned darkly. "And Id suggest you do it quickly. Your times just about up."
"Dont . . .kill me . . . ."
"Dont kill ya, huh? Well, that might be arranged." She cocked her head, smiling coyly. "Whats in it for me? I like to know what my options are before making a decision of such magnitude, ya know."
Lashing out, Kael reversed the nerve block, her teeth bared in an obscene parody of a genuine smile. "See? I knew there was a reason I kept ya around."
She grabbed him by the lapels of his dark suit and pulled him to his feet, reaching out and snatching the pristine white handkerchief from his breast pocket as she did so. She put the handkerchief up against his nose, then reached down and grabbed his hand, replacing it on the bloody square of cloth. "Keep the pressure on for a minute or two. Well talk about the terms of your surrender later." Brushing his jacket of imaginary lint, she turned and headed back toward the front door and her date with the intriguing stranger waiting just outside.
Opening the door, Kael leaned casually against the doorjamb, crossing her arms, and legs at the ankles. "Youre still here."
"As promised," the woman replied, inclining her head slightly.
"Please. Come in."
Smiling seductively, the stranger oozed her long body past Kael, trailing a finger across the other womans abdomen as she did so.
Breathing deep and grinning to herself, Kael pushed herself off the jamb and followed her guest inside, closing the door softly behind her. "Make yourself comfortable," she said, one long arm gesturing to the over-stuffed chairs occupying the huge living room. "Would you like something to drink?"
The womans grin deepened into a frank leer. "What are you offering?" she purred.
Kaels eyebrow rose to hide beneath her bangs. "Cocktails. For now."
The stranger matched her expression. "Then Ill pass. For now."
The American poured herself a scotch, neat, and swirled the liquid around in the crystal glass absently before taking a sip and feeling the pleasant burn of the alcohol as it washed down her throat. Walking across the room, she gracefully lowered herself onto the couch next to the other woman and took another sip. "Kael. Androstos," she said finally, drinking in the womans beauty.
"I know. A powerful name for a powerful woman."
Kael waited in silence.
"My name is Ianna."
"I hear youre a practitioner of Santeria."
Iannas smile broadened. "Oh yes. Such wonderful power in the religion."
Kael smirked. "Power, huh? Seems to me that youve got to be a bit of a charlatan to make people believe theyre invisible. And invincible."
"No more so than having people believe that you can shatter a bottle with the strength of your mind." There was a mad, knowing sparkle in Iannas dark eyes.
Kael jumped from her chair, her teeth bared. "How do you know . . . ."
"About your . . .mentor . . .Lao Ma?" Ianna asked, unperturbed. "Do you really think she isor wasthe only person on the planet with the power to see into the hearts of others?"
"Dont you ever speak her name to me again," Kael growled, grabbing Ianna by the neck and squeezing off her air.
The other woman seemed totally unaffected by the violent display. "And why not? The woman is dead, Kael. But her power, that incredible, wonderful, delicious power, lives on in you. Its just a matter of using it the right way." Incredibly, the strangling woman curved her hand around Kaels taut waist, pulling her dark captor ever closer. "Tap into the darkness in your soul, Kael. Tap into the blackness that fuels your dreams. Feed on it like a starving man at a banquet. Use that anger and hatred that lays claim to you. Use it and feel your true power."
Iannas words were hypnotic, their lulling tone calling to the beast coiled within Kael; summoning it out to play. Her eyes darkened to a deep indigo as a feral smile spread wide her full lips, her teeth gleaming in the firelit shadows. Her hand still wrapped, white knuckled, around Iannas neck, she brought her head down and kissed the woman with crushing force, drawing blood with the first blow.
Ianna growled deep in her throat. Kael matched it, shifting her hand from the other womans neck to her jaw and prying her mouth open. Her tongue entered strongly, harshly conquering unmapped territory as her other hand went downward, kneading Iannas firm breast through the soft cotton of her T-shirt.
With a final bite to kiss-swollen lips, Kael pulled away and downed the last of her scotch in one gulp, leaving Ianna panting and slightly dazed. "That powerful enough for ya?" she asked, wiping her mouth with the back of her hand.
Ianna swallowed hard, slowly regaining her equilibrium after the devastating attack on her senses. "Oh yes. It was perfect."
"Good. Then get out."
Smiling, Ianna slowly came to her feet, reaching into the back pocket of her jeans and retrieving a business card. "Im sure well be seeing one another again," she said, laying the card face down on the glass table fronting the couch. "Soon."
"Dont count on it."
"Oh, but I am. Our darkness draws us to one another, Kael. Alone, were formidable. Together . . . together, well be destroyers."
Fingers of a long, elegant hand flicked, a casting off. "Whatever," came the dark voice. "Just get out of here. Now."
"Very well," Ianna purred, smiling as she crossed the floor. "Until we meet again." The smirk still on her lips, she opened the door and slipped from the home.
To all the kind people who wrote to me following the end of section two: Thank you so much for your overwhelming response in support of the continuation of this novel. My email program literally went down due to the overload. <weg> There was some speculation that I was asking for feedback the way I wrote the bottom section. I wasnt. J I guess I need to edit my personal notes as carefully as I edit my story. There was also some feedback wondering if I had received negative feedback on this story. Nope, that hasnt happened either. <Insert knocking on wood sound here.> Lately, however, Im finding it difficult to consistently portray a falling-into-darkness Uber Xena without the light of Gabrielle to balance her out. My Muse is being stubborn because of this. However, weve worked out a deal, and shes promised to postpone her trip to Tahiti . . .for now. So, I suppose all this rambling is to state :::::hissy fit over now::::. A grateful thanks to everyone who wrote to me with their support!! --Sue
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