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)
20 June 1991. Just before midnight. Lao Mas House. Chengdu, China.
Standing outside the red and gold painted door to the Pleasure House, Geraldo ran a nervous hand through his thick hair before straightening his tie. He groaned inwardly at his nervousness, feeling more like a teenager with his first woman than a fully grown man coming to get what was rightfully his.
Thats probably not the best way to think about this, he thought to himself, wiping sweaty palms on his dark pants. Youll be lucky enough if she doesnt kill you on sight. You betrayed her. Shell never forgive that.
Because she acted foolishly! another part of him insisted. She almost ruined the deal. Would have, if you hadnt turned her in.
Ruined deal or not, you found out, this last month, exactly what is more important to you. Face it, Geraldo, shes right. You have gone soft. You are so in love with the woman that you almost went crazy not having her around all this time. The minute you see her, youll be down on your knees, begging for forgiveness.
Yeah, if she doesnt kill you first.
Thats a very definite possibility.
His internal conversation, over for the moment, Geraldo took one last deep breath, feeling the surety of being between a rock and a hard place, and raised his hand to knock on the door before him, winging a quick prayer heavenward as he did so.
Gasping for air and covered with a fine patina of sweat, Kael slumped back against the twisted silk sheets, one arm flung up and draped over her eyes. "That was," she croaked out, " . . .inspired."
"And inspiring," Lao Ma agreed, coming up to lay beside the beautiful woman who shared her bed. Pillowing her head on one broad shoulder, the smaller woman gently grazed her fingertips over the sweat-sheened skin as she breathed in the scent of their lovemaking with an almost primal pleasure.
"This freeing yourself of desire stuff has got some merit," Kael said, rolling over and enveloping Lao Ma in a warm embrace.
Lao Ma laughed softly, returning the embrace and nuzzling into Kaels sweet smelling hair. "Not the usual way a true Master teaches this lesson, however."
Kaels eyes, still passion-dark, opened slowly. A rakish grin came over her face. "Dont see why not. Itd pretty much guarantee your students came back for more."
Any reply Lao Ma might have made was lost as a light tapping came to the door frame.
A young woman, dressed and painted for the evening, entered the room, keeping her head bowed and her gaze on the floor. "Many pardons for the intrusion, Lao Ma, but there is a man downstairs asking to speak with you. He says that it is very important."
Lao Ma could feel Kaels body stiffen behind her. "Was he alone?"
"Did he give his name?"
"Yes, Maam. He said his name was Geraldo Rodriguez."
The young woman drew back in fear as Kael launched herself from the bed, a soundless snarl on her lips.
"Kael! No!" Lao Ma shouted, also quickly standing.
"Stay out of this, Lao Ma. That bastards mine." Not even bothering to slip a robe on over her naked body, Kael strode toward the door.
"Stop it, Kael! Stop desiring! Stop hating!"
The American whirled, her lips split in a sharks sneer. "Pretty words, Lao Ma. But that miserable excuse for a scum-sucking pig betrayed me. There isnt enough philosophy in the world thats gonna stop me from paying him back."
"And what will your revenge accomplish, Kael?"
"Ill make me feel better," Kael smirked, turning once again.
Her face white beneath the paint, the young messenger jumped out of the enraged Americans way.
Kael had gotten no more than two steps from the room when she was brought down by what felt like a cattle-prod to her spine. Her legs crumpled beneath her, refusing to bear her weight. She fell to the floor in a heap, quickly twisting to glare murderously at Lao Ma, who was standing very calmly beside her.
"You must stop this casting out for revenge, Kael. It will grant you nothing, save, perhaps, a very temporary respite. Or an ugly death."
"Maybe thats all Im lookin for," the American ground out, sitting up and rubbing at her tingling legs.
"If it is, then we have both wasted our time."
Looking up, Kael caught the brief expression of disappointment as it darkened her mentors eyes. That look drained much of the anger from the taller womans body, replacing it with a sort of shame that made her shift uncomfortably on the floor at Lao Mas feet. "He betrayed me, Lao Ma!" she repeated, as if saying it yet again would convince the other woman of that simple fact.
Lao Ma nodded. "Of that, I am well aware. However, perhaps this time apart has given him a chance to think on his actions. Perhaps he has come here, hoping for a chance to apologize to you."
Kael snorted. "Geraldo? Lao Ma, that man wouldnt apologize to his own mother if someone was pulling his fingernails out by the roots."
"People change," the Asian replied simply.
"Some would say that it would be easier for a mountain to shed tears of sadness than for Kael Androstos to feel anything other than anger. Is that also true?"
Kael looked at Lao Ma for a long moment, before dropping her eyes back to her still numb legs. "Not anymore," she mumbled.
"Then perhaps others have it within themselves to change as well."
"Damnit, Lao Ma! Hes not here to beg forgiveness! Its a setup! Are you so blind to evil that you cant see that? Hes nothing more than Mings puppy, sent in to do the dirty work. If he finds me here, all our lives are forfeit!"
"I am not nearly as blind to evil as you think, Kael. I am asking you to trust me to handle this. You trusted me to hide you from Ming Dao."
"I didnt have a choice then."
"You have a choice now." She looked down into the mesmerizing blue eyes. "Will you trust me?"
Kael looked up into the eyes of her teacher. Do I have it within me to trust again? Can it really be so easy as saying yes? Do I dare run the risk of being betrayed yet again? Can it really end here?
Pushing out all doubts and fears, half astounded at herself for doing so, she took in a deep breath and let it out slowly. "Yes," she said finally. "Ill trust you."
Lao Mas smile lit up more than her face as she reached down to help Kael from her place on the floor. "Thank you, Kael."
The American shrugged off her grip. "Yeah, well just dont take too long down there. I might get a little nervous, and you wouldnt like me when Im nervous."
"Ill keep that in mind," Lao Ma replied as she reached for, slipped on, and belted her robe.
Standing just inside the ornate entrance to the Pleasure Palace, Geraldo soothed his nerves by preening slightly before the gaggle of painted beauties who flirted shamelessly with him from their places inside the large sitting room just to the right of the entrance.
That the women were beauties there was no doubt. Exactly the type of nubile, young flesh he had feasted upon before a certain black haired, blue eyed she demon had come into his life, crippled and hooked through the nose on the fruits of his labors.
Geraldo, once, had prided himself on being his fathers son; a man who, it was said from within the shadowed depths of roadside cantinas, had more women than Colombia had cocoa plants. How he could have allowed one woman to capture him so completelyand so effortlesslywas beyond his capacity to guess.
The drug lord was snapped out of his thoughts by the sudden quiet in the house. His gaze was directed to the stairs, where the young messenger was gracefully returning, followed by a truly stunning woman, dressed in formal robes of rose and pink silk.
Reaching the bottom of the stairs, the woman walked toward him with such dignity and grace that Geraldo found himself straightening his spine until it fairly crackled with ramrod straightness. He bowed his head in respect before he even realized he was doing so.
The woman smiled. "Welcome to my humble home. My name is Lao Ma. You wished to speak with me?"
"I am sorry for the intrusion, Lao Ma, but I must speak with you. It is very urgent," Geraldo managed to get out. He could feel the womans eyes on him, calmly assessing, and he felt his nervousness return once again, full force, drying up all the moisture in his mouth.
"Very well," she said after a moment. "Come with me."
Breathing out a silent, but heartfelt, sigh of relief, Geraldo silently followed behind the woman as she led the way deeper into the building.
Lao Ma ushered Geraldo into her office, gently closing the door behind her. Gesturing to a chair, she continued around to the rear of her large desk and seated herself behind it, folding her hands on the pristine surface. "How may I be of assistance to you?"
"I am looking for a woman, an American, by the name of Kael Androstos. I have reason to believe that she is here, with you, in this place. I must see her."
Placing her hands flat on the desk, Lao Ma made as if to stand up. "Than I am sorry, Mr. Rodriguez. You have wasted your time."
Geraldo jumped to his feet. "Please! Wait! I must speak to her! Its urgent!"
"And what is this urgency, that you must come here in the middle of the night?"
"Its . . .difficult to explain," Geraldo hedged.
"Then, again, you have wasted your time. I can be of no help to you."
"Please, hear me out. I said it was difficult to explain, not that I wouldnt explain it."
Lao Ma looked at him, waiting.
Running a hand through his thick hair, Geraldo sighed. "I . . .made a deal with Ming Dao. Kael, in exchange for the chance to sell his product overseas." He dropped his eyes. "But I couldnt go through with it. He gave me a month to find her, and tonight, my time is up." Raising his eyes again, he looked beseechingly into the serene face of the woman sitting across from him. "Please, I must speak to her. Ive managed to secure a way out of this country. For the both of us. If she doesnt leave with me tonight, Ming Dao will surely find her and kill her."
"And why dont you just go through with your deal?" Lao Ma asked. "Surely it would be safer for you in the long run. More profitable, as well."
"I . . . ." Geraldos voice trailed off as his machismo tried one last valiant stand against his heart. He took in a deep breath, his heart winning out. "Because I love her. Because my greed and my anger made me betray her. And because I want to make it right with her."
Lao Ma looked carefully at Geraldo. His sincerity was rolling off of him in waves. It was obvious that he did love Kael, enough to risk his own life getting her to safety. But I love her as well, she thought, a small twinge of unaccustomed jealousy worming its way into her heart. She fought it down ruthlessly. Kael was not safe in China.
As Geraldo opened his own heart, Lao Ma shut hers down. "Come with me," she said, simply.
The Latin walked behind the small woman, following her deeper into the voluminous confines of her home. Stepping through a narrow doorway, he stopped, frozen, as Lao Ma stepped aside and the vision of a naked Kael was presented him. His jaw dropped as his eyes took in the strong lines and supple curves of the woman he loved. Lust consumed him, once again drying his mouth.
"Hello, Geraldo," Kael said, her aura oozing blatant sexuality. The corner of her mouth crooked up in a half-grin as she closed the distance between them, seeming to glide more than walk across the open space. "Didja miss me?"
Geraldo found that his voice had gone wherever his spit had disappeared to. Dumbly, he nodded.
Then the air rushed out of his lungs through the pinhole that had suddenly replaced his throat as a muscled thigh interposed itself between his slightly spread legs and pushed. Hard.
A half-breathed whimper and he was down on his knees, hands cuppedtoo lateover his genitals.
Coughing out a smirking laugh, Kael lifted her knee again, just as Geraldo was folding forward, connecting with his forehead and sending him sprawling on his back, wheezing.
Lao Ma stepped forward. "Kael . . . ."
"Stay out of this, Lao Ma," Kael snarled, reaching down and pulling Geraldo up by the lapels of his suit jacket. "This is between me and the little puppy here." She grinned into the mans face. "Isnt it, Geraldo."
"Stop this, Kael," Lao Ma ordered.
"Not a chance," the tall woman said, grinning evilly. "Its payback time."
Releasing one of the lapels, Kael slapped Geraldo across the face, open handed. Then she slapped the other cheek, harder. The Latins eyes rolled back in his head as he slumped backward, only Kaels strong grip keeping him on his feet.
"Pussy," she spat, releasing him and watching as he dropped bonelessly to the floor. "Worthless piece of shit."
The American rounded on Lao Ma before a scream halted her in her tracks.
Gunfire echoed through the building.
More screams followed.
Completing her turn, Kael threw Lao Ma to the floor before squatting down and grabbing Geraldos Sig from its place at his back. "Now the real fun starts," she purred, grinning darkly, wildly.
More screams, followed by the sound of quickly running footsteps, coming closer.
"Dont do this, Kael," Lao Ma warned.
"Just stay outta my way."
Lao Ma stood her ground as the footsteps came ever closer. Kael raised the weapon, aiming for the doorway. Two men came into view, their faces blank tableaus, upon which murder was ready to be written in blood.
Kael squeezed the trigger and the men fell to the floor, to be replaced quickly by two more. One of the men managed to get off a shot before his head exploded in a fountain of blood.
His partner was smarter, using the dead body as a shield. Pushing the corpse into the room, he waited until the American woman ducked out of the way, then fired.
Kael felt the sting of a bullet as it whizzed by her ear, missing her by a hairsbreadth, at most. Her grin widened. "You couldnt hit the Great Wall, four eyes," she taunted, before ending his life with a perfect shot to the heart. The man fell soundlessly, his weapon clattering to the floor.
Three more men advanced, spraying automatic weapons fire into the room, chewing through the walls and artwork that had stood in the once pristine room.
Kael managed to get the first two and was drawing a bead on the third, when her wrist was creased by a bullet, causing her arm to go numb. Her next shots went wide of their mark, allowing the third man, followed by a forth, and a fifth, to enter the room, their expressions grim.
The American tried to fire her weapon, but her hand wouldnt work. She backed up slowly, eyes frantically searching for an escape.
Ming Dao entered at the end of the parade of armed muscle, his seamed face further creased in a mocking smile. "So, Ms. Androstos, we meet again. I had hoped to make your death a little more . . .painful . . .but youve cost me too many of my men already. The hunt has been fun, but Im afraid it is time to say goodbye to the prey. Do you have any last words?"
Kael bared her teeth. "Eat shit."
The drug lord threw back his head and laughed, gesturing for one of his men to finish the job.
He was dead before hed even stopped laughing. The bodies of his remaining guards quickly joined him on the blood-pooled floor.
Her eyes wide with shock, Kael whirled to face a barely standing Geraldo, his weapon clasped loosely in one limp hand.
"I couldnt let them kill you," he gasped, slowly straightening as some color came back to his cheeks.
Kael looked at him for a moment, before turning her head to track down Lao Ma. "You can come out now," she called. "The bad guys are all gone."
When there was no answer, Kael dropped her gun and ran behind the bed where Lao Ma was sprawled, face down. Gasping, the tall woman squatted, turning the body over. "No," she half-sobbed, taking in the shredded and blood soaked gown. "No! Lao Ma! No!!"
Panic stricken, she shook Lao Mas unresponsive body, then blindly reached for a pulse.
There was none. Lao Mas flesh was already growing chill.
"NO!" Kael screamed, gathering the dead woman into a tight embrace, burying her face in her mentors thick hair. "No!!!"
Sirens pierced the now-still air.
Geraldo limped painfully over to where Kael sat rocking Lao Ma in a fevered grip. "Help her," his lover begged, her eyes sparkling with tears. "Please. I cant lose her."
"We need to go," he said tightly, laying a gentle hand on her shoulder. "The police are coming. Well be stuck here forever if they find us."
"Help her, damn you!!"
"Its too late! Kael, please! We have to go! Now!!"
"No! I wont leave her!"
"You have to! Ive gotten us passage out of the country. We must leave, Kael! We must!!"
"No. I wont leave." Looking down, Kael gently wiped a strand of hair clinging to Lao Mas full lips. "Im so sorry," she whispered, sobbing. "Lao Ma, Im so, so sorry. Please, come back to me. Please."
The sirens came closer. Squealing tires were heard as the cars skid to a stop on the wet pavement outside the establishment.
"Theres no more time, Kael," Geraldo warned, grasping her arm and trying to pull her to her feet.
"Leave me alone, damnit!"
"I cant! I wont! Lao Ma is dead, Kael. Theres nothing more you can do for her. "We need to get away. Now!"
Kael looked from the dark man to the dead woman, listening as the sounds of car doors slamming and men yelling penetrated the thick walls of Lao Mas home. She bowed her head, placing a last, tender kiss on the womans soft brow. "Youll always be a part of me, Lao Ma," she whispered, stroking the long, jet hair for the last time.
Slowly, her eyes hardened to arctic ice. She released Lao Ma, then stood.
"Lets get the fuck outta here."
END OF SECTION TWO
If anyone out there is still reading this, there will be a short break while I write some more of section three. There should be more out by the end of this week, if thats whats desired by the fanfic reading community. --Sue