A Tale For The 21st Century ã 04/2001

Book 1: Civil War © 04/2001

By: BJ O’Donnell

Warning: Uber story ahead.

Disclaimers: This bit of fiction contains characters that are mine. Mine, all mine do you hear me. Oh, sorry about that, I got carried away there for a moment.

Sex/Violence Disclaimer: This story contains scenes of a sexual and loving nature between two women. If this offends you, well then I’m sorry that you have such a limited tolerance for others lifestyles and I hope that by reading this you become a bit more enlightened. If it is however, illegal in your neck of the woods to view this manner of love due to censorship or age limits, well, all I can say is that you should think about moving, quickly or wait until you are older to read this.

As far as violence is concerned, there is very little of a graphic nature in this story, certainly not nearly as much as one would see on any TV show or movie. (There is however a short bit about an attempted rape between two women, but all goes well in the end) So don’t be afraid to enter into my imagination. <g>

Historical Note: Some portions of this story are based on historical fact derived from people and events that took place during the Revolutionary War between the American Colonies and Great Briton. Although this story is set in the future, the events that took place more then 200 years ago are still conceivable for their return to take place. Just watch your newspapers carefully. You know the old saying, "If we don’t learn from our past, history is bound to repeat itself."

Thanks: My heart felt thanks go out to Garnet. For taking the time and energy to beta read this tale. All your helpful insight has been much appreciated. And of course, thanks go out to my partner, Lisa, who took her life in her own hands when trying to "correct" the little flaws she found along the way. Kisses go out to the both of you.

I may be reached at bodonnell@cfl.rr.com   if you wish to make any comments about this or any other story I have written.


And now, on with the first story of this Tale.





















A Tale For The 21st Century ã 04/2001

Book 1: Civil War © 04/2001

By: BJ O’Donnell


"Swear allegiance to the flag,

whatever flag they offer.

Never hint at what you really feel.

Teach the children quietly,

for someday sons and daughters,

will rise up and fight while we stood still."

Silent Running

By: Mike and the Mechanics


Book 1: Civil War


A Coup d’état

Part 1

In The Beginning

Part 2

The Great Battle At Solstice






























A Tale For The 21st Century ã 04/2001

Book 1: Civil War © 04/2001

By: BJ O’Donnell






Prolog: A Coup d’état
























The sun, setting low over the horizon, cast eerie shadows on the frozen, snow covered ground as more of the fluffy ice crystals fell softly into ever deepening drifts outside the windows. The wind whipped the snow about in endless cascades as it spiraled down through the bare tree branches to finally settle on the ground below. Peering through the frost covered glass pane, the bard noted how much she loved watching the snow as it fell in huge flakes to blanket the earth in a soft cover of white. So quiet, so peaceful was this, her favorite time of year.

With barely a perceivable sigh she turned from the window and sat down comfortably in a chair near the front of the small room. Her back being warmed by the crackling fireplace behind her, she draped her legs in a soft blanket to help keep them warm from the ever present draft in the simple wood framed room. Her long blond hair wrapping around her neck in a warm embrace feeling better then any scarf she could have worn.

Settling herself, she turned her gaze from the window, her attention drawn now to the children as they sat round on the floor, playing and rolling on big over stuffed pillows, they’re own attention lost for the moment on each other.

The bard watched cheerfully as her listeners finally settled themselves in to hear her tale. The children, now sitting wide eyed with wonder and anticipation as the older listeners sat comfortably nearer the fire. She loved her audiences. The way in which they saw what she was describing. And she loved to tell this particular story. Every year at Solstice she welcomed people to hear this tale in hopes of keeping the memory alive, the memory of love and struggle. The love of two women and their struggle for the freedom of all people. She didn’t ever want for the future what had happened in the past.

She began her tale as she did with all her stories, looking deeply into the eyes of the young and old alike, waiting for silence to fill the room. Finally as all sat quietly, their eyes and attention drawn to her, she softly began…

"There was no ‘shot heard round the world’, no bombing of a naval base or even an atomic explosion, yet the Coup d'état in the early 21st century was the beginning to the end of the most powerful nation this world had ever known.

It started so benignly, so subtly that no one, not noble politician nor civilian alike even realized what was happening until it was too late to stop the take over. Too late for any person naïve enough at first to believe that there were still personal freedoms and a working Constitution in this country to see what was happening and halt the erosion of power from their very grasp.

The CRW, a shorter, ‘easier on the ear’ version for the Conservative Right Wing, had taken control slowly. One village, one school, one vote at a time and were now the authoritarian leaders of this nation. No longer was it known as the USA, but was now referred to as the BAN, ‘Born Again Nation’. They had complete authority and control over every thing that was allowed to be read, written, viewed, heard and if they had their way, even to the extent of what was thought.

They had become the leaders of every school board, every town council and soon, every Senate and Representative seat in Congress as well as the most powerful body of government; the Supreme Court . Complete control. Power to decide for the people what they thought was best for them like some tyrannical parent. And… the powers to deny them the freedom of even the simplest choices.

In the beginning the citizens voted them in because they wanted a better place to raise their children, a safer place to live and work. Oh, the CRW had some good ideas all right, at least at first. They wanted to help the people, to make this nation a heaven on earth. Their version of heaven. But as they grew in power, they convinced the people that in order for them to live in a safe place, they must be willing to give up some of their freedoms. At first the people were all too willing to give those ‘small’ freedoms away, ‘for the greater good’ they thought. "What’s a little infringement on our right to free speech in order to keep pornography away from our vulnerable children" they thought, as any loving parent would to protect their young.

And so it went with all their precious amendments and rights, one at a time. Slowly unraveling the very fabric in which their goals and dreams as a people and nation were held together.

That was how it started. How the CRW grew to have such power over this nation. One vote at a time, for the greater good. What wasn’t known to most people at that time, was that there was a secret agenda hidden behind that process. An agenda that involved the destruction of the Constitution and their way of living as a free nation. The men behind this cancerous agenda were after power, pure and simple. They thought that their way was the only way things should be done and they didn’t want anyone or anything to oppose them in their quest for control.

The CRW had changed so many things over time. The changes came gradually at first but as they gained power the changes came much more quickly. The constitution was one of the things that surprisingly was quick and easy to change. Most of the people didn’t know what was truly represented in the old constitution or even remembered what they had been taught in school to realize the extent of freedoms and power they were giving away. So, to nibble away at the cherished document was a relatively simple thing. The flag however took longer to change, I suppose because it was a more tangible symbol of the ‘old ways’. Old Glory, the Stars and Bars had been changed to the new flag, one that represented the BAN. It had an emblem of a cross of gold interwoven with a crown of thorns laying on a field of deep crimson red. The crown and cross represented the religious beliefs of the CRW and the crimson red back ground stood for the blood that would be spilt, if necessary, in their ‘Holy War’.

And now the citizens lived only in fear, fear of their own government and fear from the "Guard". The Guardian Angles were the police force behind the CRW, the enforcers of the new laws. They were ruthless in their quest for domination over the citizens of this once proud nation.

The Guard were there to protect the ‘New Constitution’ from ‘wrong thinkers’. They were always present, on the streets, in the offices and factories and even in peoples homes. They would come into places of work and private homes uninvited and by force if necessary, to remove a citizen, for the ‘safety of others’ they said and take them to be ‘reformed’. The problem was however, that the citizen would never be seen or heard from again. No word was ever sent to the worried families of these people as to where or how the denizen was. No one knew what ever became of these people. They simply ceased to be, not even a small record of their existence remained in any official archive.

People soon became terrified of the Guard. Their very presence sent shock waves of fear into the citizens. There was no place to hide, no where to go to escape.

So many personal freedoms and amendments were altered in those days that most of the citizens soon came to a point that they didn’t even remember the old ways. They were no longer allowed to stand and speak freely with discord against the new, reformed government, no longer were there choices at the voting booth nor were they allowed to possess weapons of any kind, not even to protect their own homes. The Guard would watch over and protect them the CRW had said. The CRW also abolished all forms of religious expression but for their own. No longer were the citizens allowed freedom of religion, finally obliterating completely the first amendment.

The reformers of this new government soon outlawed free trade with other nations and by doing so, the economy came to a point of recession and utter chaos. The simplest things began to disappear from the store shelves and soon ration cards were being issued for even the smallest items. The people began to loose what they had fought so hard to gain. With no supplies coming in and nothing being exported in trade, factories and business’s began to fail and close. Unemployment lines grew beyond even that of the last Great Depression. Infrastructures fell and cities soon crumbled into nothing more then separated small hamlets and villages.

The CRW however were masters at manipulation and propaganda and issued proclamations that stated it was the fault of the outside world, the ‘heathens’ and "wrong thinkers" they said. With the use of the Guard’s control tactics and the messages of the reformers, the citizens soon turned from other nations. They built walls at their borders and had ships patrolling their seas. They became a separatist nation with no contact to the outside world and no hope of rescue.

These reformers of the new government also restricted travel from the land by its citizens as well as entry by peoples from other nations. They told the denizens that they would be safer if they would not allow people who might be terrorists into their land. No one was allowed in who might take a job away from the rightful citizens of this nation, although few jobs could be found now. No one who had a different religious belief or political point of view was allowed to exchange ideas with any of the citizens of this newly reformed nation. They were told that the ideas of others could harm them by taking their impressionable children and corrupting their minds with such ‘wrong thinking’. And the people believed them, for the children they thought. What they didn’t realize at the time was that they were slowly taking away the only real thing that could protect them, their freedom of choice.

They all stood as sheep and allowed this to happen, they even helped them do it by believing that to loose some of their freedom was better in order to remain safe. But safe at what cost? They had become what they hated the most, a nation of followers willing to put themselves into shackles in order to protect their safety. But ultimately they lost their most precious freedom, the ability to protect themselves from a corrupt government and to grow and learn from the diversity of others. And soon they were no longer allowed to even communicate with the outside world or even amongst them selves from coast to coast. No Internet, no newspapers, no outside phone systems. Cut off from anyone who could help, anyone who might listen to their cries and pleads.

All hope was finally lost.

Over the course of many years however, small factions of people began to rebel. There were solitary individuals as well as whole groups who began to revolt against the reformers. Some of these people were very upstanding individuals within their communities. There were wealthy land and business owners as well as politicians who still held firm the belief in the freedom of all. Some of these men and women lost everything in the fight for freedom. Some were run out of their homes and businesses, their fortunes lost to the reformers, their families scattered. Many were hunted down and killed or taken to be tortured to show the rest of the people what could happen to them if they rebelled. Some of the politicians held their posts all the while secretly informing the newly begun bands of rebels about the inner workings of the CRW at a great cost to their own lives and families. These people were true heroes who fought hard and lost so much for the greater good of all.

They were individuals who began fighting for freedom. Some were subtle in the beginning doing such things as refusing to show their papers when asked for by the Guard saying simply that they had lost or forgotten them. They wouldn’t show up for the government Church services as was dictated by the New Constitution, claiming to be ill or using some other excuse. They even began having small gatherings in their homes to discuss the CRW and devise plans on what could be done to remove them from power. Some of the people had even secreted away old worn copies of the original constitution and would read from it at clandestine meetings under immense personal persecution if caught.

There were even those who, at great personal risk quietly infiltrated government offices as secretaries and aides in order to learn what was truly happening and to use that information against the reformers. Something, anything to build hope again amongst the people.

These silent rebels, working with the free thinking politicians developed secret communication methods to help pass the information on to others. They also learned the codes that the reformers were using and turned it against them by sending misinformation. They learned of troop movements and where attacks were going to take place then sent coded messages to turn the troops from their true goals. Some of these rebels infiltrated the battalions of the Guard as spy’s and soon began an underground means of escape for those unfortunate enough to get caught by the Guard and were being held as "wrong thinkers". They did whatever they could to fracture the war against the citizens.

But to be sure, just as there were those who fought for the greater good, there were also those who were more selfish in nature. These bands of ruthless mercenaries began roaming the country sides, preying on all people and towns who got in their way. They began as small groups looking for nothing more then to keep their own towns free from the insidious CRW and Guard. But there were those who soon became corrupted and would stop at nothing to halt the reformers or anyone for that matter, who tried to stop them. Some, more feral members within these groups were ruthless in their sordid quest for freedom and power of their own and quickly took control of entire armies of mercenaries for their own sinister purposes.

The more altruistic of these mercenaries however, began forming an organized army for the freedom of all people. They were much less benign in their actions as rebels then those of the more reserved ranks as they moved about in groups as well as silent individuals. They further infiltrated the Guard and began much more damaging tactics to route out the hated CRW.

With the lack of gasoline in the broken down economy of those days, due in part to the destroyed refineries, some of the army rebels rode on horseback to move quietly up on their enemies. There were a few that also, when able to find the rare gas, rode atop motorcycles. These machines had long ago been banned by the CRW due to the individual nature of the machine and rider but some had them hidden away with the hopes of putting them to good use in the future. And the future was now before them.

This ‘army’, working at times with the silent rebels, learned where strategic and vulnerable spots of the Guard were located, then bombed them in order to destroy their enemy. They started a black market for the exchange of ration tickets and to refill their needed war supplies such as the very short supply of ammunition. The army had to try and retrieve all shell casings after a battle so they could be reloaded and reused. This was always a very dangerous mission and many people died trying to retrieve them. With the Guard so well equipped with guns and lasers, the task of retrieving used shell casings was also one of honor.

Some of these fighters were real heroes from the start. And some became heroes.

Then one evening, one of the more popular and powerful political rebel leaders had been taken from his home by the Guard to be ‘reformed’. This led to a spontaneous uprising and riot in the eastern city where it happened. Word was spread and soon there were riots and rebellions in every major city and town in the BAN. The two groups of rebels came together in full then to fight this new war, this civil war against the reformers.

The Freedom Fighters were born out of the fire and ashes of those riots.

The Freedom Fighters became a growing number of what once were ordinary citizens who had finally awoken from their denial of what was happening. Realizing that all that they held dear, all that their forefathers hard fought for freedoms of the past had been taken away from them and that they themselves had been to blame.

These people, once proud citizens of a noble nation had become fighters, warriors for freedom. They had become expert in the ways of guerilla warfare and political deception and now worked to try to take down this corrupt government. They fought in the streets and from within the government itself as they infiltrated the Guard and the CRW political party.

As the wars raged on, larger cities began to crumble into ruin. Smaller battles and skirmishes destroyed many smaller cities leaving nothing more then humble villages in their wake. The fighting was fiercest at first in the western states where people had more room to fight and hide. The entire western oil pipe line system was destroyed along with much of the rail roads. Communication and satellite systems were destroyed or useless once the wars began. So many people died and there was so much destruction in those first years of the war that the country was hardly recognizable as the great nation it once was. With an industrialization and infrastructure that took over 200 years to develop, it was amazing how complete the destruction of it occurred in so short a period of time.

Entire enclaves and towns sprang up from those wars though, ‘free towns’ as they were known then. The people of those towns soon began to rely on themselves for food and necessities as they found themselves further cut off from the eastern, reformer states and towns. These free towns were protected by the Freedom Fighters, where citizens could live in freedom as they had in the past. They became havens for the fighting forces and for ordinary citizens with extraordinary courage.

Within the Freedom Fighters ranks formed an elite group called the Gate Keepers. The Gate Keepers were indeed a very powerful force to be reckoned with, they stood as a united circle, one in which no one could break. The members had all taken a blood oath to bring this country back to where they could be free and live proud once again. This oath, sworn in secret under the old flag proclaimed them to fight to the death for their nation, "for the support of this country, with a firm reliance on the protection of the divine providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our honor."

They were the leaders and teachers for the future fighting forces of the Freedom Fighters. They were the front line in the defense of the old ways, the very best of the best, the Warriors of the Freedom Fighters.

With ammunition at short supply, a few of the Gate Keepers best fighters had become experts in the use of old weapons that required skill and not random sprays of ammunition for their deadly use. Swords and knives became the calling cards of the elite Gate Keepers fighting forces. They’re silent but deadly ranks were cheered on by the free citizens and feared greatly amongst the Guard.

At the head of this elite group of warriors was a woman. She towered above most men with a long flowing black mane down over her powerful back and shoulders. But it was her eyes that caught most peoples attention at first though, piercing blue, the color of a hot flame. Her beauty was beyond compare as was her strength and power. Her mastery of weapons was legendary, even to her enemies. She held such personal power, such strength of character that no one could deny her leadership. She could be ruthless if necessary towards the enemy but with just as much capacity to be gentle and caring towards the persecuted.

Her name was Nikki Antolovich. Once the head of a hated band of lawless mercenaries, she changed her destructive ways and rose up to take control of the ‘army’ rebels. She was truly the greatest warrior of the elite Gate Keepers and led the Freedom Fighters in their quest to return the nation to the people. This is her story."

And thus, the tale begins…




Time Line of Events

1980 1990 2000 2010 2020 2030 2040 2050 2060 2070 2080 2090 2100

CRW, putting pieces in place

Coup d’état

Complete CRW control

Total destruction of government and economy

Rebellion & mercenaries

Civil War begins

Freedom Fighters are born

Nikki & Becca meet

New Order

The Bard














































A Tale For The 21st Century ã 04/2001

Book 1: Civil War © 04/2001

By: BJ O’Donnell



Part 1 In The Beginning






























Chapter 1

"Nikki. Nikki! Are you listening?" The male voice slowly filtered into the deep concentration that held Nikki’s mind in its iron clad grip.

"Wha… what? Oh yea, sorry ‘bout that. What were you saying?" Her voice low and raspy, showing signs of being tired. Then with determined, yet blood shot eyes, she once more began to study the map laid out before her as the man to her left continued.

"I was saying that you really need to get some rest, especially if we’re still going to attack at dawn. You’ve been working too hard lately and most of the preparations are already done anyway. Why don’t you just go and lie down for a few hours at least. Anyway, we’re really going to need your help in the morning." The big man said to his friend and commander as he slowly slid the maps from the table and began to roll them up.

"Yea, I guess your right but I hate to leave anything undone, ya know?" She said as her long arms reached out above her head in a wide stretch that made her already commanding form become even more impressive. Relaxing now, she walked casually towards the door along side her companion.

"Don’t worry, everything is done. We only have to wait for the rest of the force to show up and for a bit of daylight and we’re all set. Now get some rest!" John’s voice elevated at the last part. He requested this bluntly, more as a friend concerned for the well being of his companion.

An arch of her brow in his direction brought his eye lids down for a moment then up again as the words quietly came out of an exhausted commander, "Yea, I suppose your right."

He knew he was the only one who could ever get away with talking to Nikki like that and he also knew that she wouldn’t get any sleep but at least she might get some rest before the battle began.

John was a big man, standing nearly 6’4" and weighing in at close to 250 pounds, which made him look a lot less agile then he really was. He had been commanding troops as Nikki’s right hand now for nearly two years although he had known her for over four and had become one of her closest friends.

If you could call it that.

She wasn’t prone to keeping the company and confidence of many people. And he had never seen her in the personal company of anyone other then a few people that she bedded when the need arose in her, especially after a battle. Yea, he thought with a friendly snicker, then she always had someone with her.

But John was close, closer then most to the great warrior. Nikki was the best thing that ever happened to the Freedom Fighters. It was she who had brought together the lone bands of rebels and made them the great army that they were now. And it was with her leadership that they were finally beginning to see some progress towards the destruction of the regime that held them by the throats.


As Nikki headed off to the small room that had been set aside for her in the makeshift troop compound, John sat alone in the map room, pushing back in his folding aluminum chair, then leaning it against the wall near the heater. He slowly began the subconscious movement of sharpening his Kamas, one of the often used weapons of his commander as well as himself. They had beautiful 18" hardwood handles with sickle shaped 6 ½" blades that were kept deadly sharp. He loved this weapon, with its warm oak handles that fit smoothly in his large hands. Nikki’s were made of a rich mahogany that almost seemed to glow from the heat of her body when she used them. As he continued idly passing the sharpening stone over the blades, John’s mind drifted to thoughts of his commander, as they often did after witnessing her focus strengthen before a battle.

He had first met her a short while after he and his brother had joined the fight. They were young, some say too young to be fighting in those wars. But to them, well to them it meant everything. To fight for the freedom of their land and to be able to do so along side of the greatest warrior that the Gate Keepers had was more then enough encouragement for them to risk their lives.

Nikki was in their town back then with some of the other Freedom Fighters to help destroy one of the major train stations that helped in the removal of the ‘wrong thinkers’. He had learned that they were recruiting fighters for the main forces as well as looking for small, young agile fighters that would be willing to risk everything in order to infiltrate and retrieve the precious used shell casings from the battle fields.

John knew he would never be chosen for one of those assignments as big as he was but maybe they would pick him as a fighter. His brother however was very small for someone that came from his family, the ‘runt’ everyone used to call him. He was just what they were looking for, a strong fighter able to infiltrate even the smallest tunnels into the Guard complexes.

John and his brother Pete had been fighting along side one of the local units for only a few weeks when he happened to meet Nikki one day in the hallway of the Freedom Fighter’s temporary command post. He had been sent there to deliver a message to one of the lieutenants. As he walked down the hall, he became distracted by a loud noise coming from behind him. Turning to see what it was, he suddenly felt a hand clamped down around his mouth from behind. Then a foot at the back of his knee sent him quickly lying sprawled out on the floor with a knife edge laying across his throat and a woman straddled atop his chest.

"Now, if I wanted to," came the low, menacing voice behind glaring blue eyes, "you would be dead."

"Always know where the traps are before you go in, it’s safer that way." she said as she removed the sharp knife, slipping it back into the top of her boot then easily pulling him to his feet, giving him a smirk and an upturned eyebrow.

"Ye.. yes m.. m.. ma’am." he stammered as he stood in front of her wondering in awe how she ever got him to the floor and back up again as big as he was. She stood only a few inches shorter then him with long raven hair pulled back into a loose braid that fell down the middle of her back. She was wearing tight black leather pants that showed off the formidable muscles in her legs as well as a black leather tunic that fit low and snug over her ample bosom. He could see a small dagger hidden in her cleavage as well as two tucked neatly into the tops of her boots, he decided quickly that this woman was someone who came prepared for anything. But it was her eyes that held John’s attention. Piercing blue, the color of a hot flame as she glared into his soft brown ones.

"Now, what or who are you looking for?" she said smoothly as she looked him over. Not in an obtrusive way, more like someone who was looking to purchase something and was just appraising the merchandise.

"I was sent to deliver a message to Nikki." he lied. He knew the message was to go to the lieutenant but this might be his only chance to meet the great warrior, he thought.

"Well, well and what message would that be? And who sent ya?" she demanded, her eyes narrowing on his.

Fear began to ripple through him at the chance of being found out but he stood steadfastly and continued, "I am to give it to her only and it was Carl at the fifth unit who sent me, ma’am."

"You really are brave for such a young man." She snickered. "I think we could train you to be better though. How long have you been with the fifth?" she asked, ignoring the message for now, she already knew that it was nothing but a simple report. She only wanted to learn more about this boy who didn’t back down from her even when she gave him one of her more imposing glares.

"My brother and I have only been with them for a few weeks now but we had fought on our own to help the cause until we were old enough to join the force." He managed to say before he felt those eyes penetrate his soul.

"Did ya now?" Nikki replied with an upturned brow. "What did you do for the cause and how old are you and your brother?" she asked as she looked him squarely in his eyes.

"I am 19 and my brother Pete is 18." he said proudly then continued, "And as far as what we have done for the cause, well we, um, er helped to distract the Guard while the Fighters placed bombs in the trucks that carried the troops. We also helped by aiding with the local COM center microwave tower trying to get it back on line." he again stammered out.

He didn’t want to show fear but the longer this woman held his gaze, the more nervous he became. She had a sense of power about her, commanding power. Who was she he wondered as he began to fidget. I wonder if all the Gate Keepers are this powerful! He thought as a shiver ran down his spine. All he wanted to do now however was deliver the message to anyone who would take it and get the hell out of there. Fast.

"What’s your name son?" she asked, smiling to herself as she watched him become more apprehensive by her presence, she knew he couldn’t hold out much longer under her scrutiny.

"John, ma’am." he said politely then looking away to anywhere but those eyes of hers.

"Well John, you can give the message to…" but before she could finish, one of her lieutenants called to her from down the hall.

"Nikki, we have been looking for this messenger for the past hour. He was supposed to bring a message to me from the fifth." the lieutenant said angrily as he approached the two standing together in the hall.

John spun around quickly to look with shock into the now smirking eyes of the woman he had been speaking with.

Her smile softened and became wider as she glanced back at John, then to the lieutenant, "That’s alright lieutenant, I’ve been the one to hold him up. John, why don’t you give the lieutenant the message now?" then quickly added as John passed over the paper he had been crumpling in his hand, "I will handle him from here lieutenant."

"Yes Nikki, as you wish." The lieutenant replied, then quickly walked away down the hall.

John bent his head at the embarrassment of getting caught in a lie and by all people, the one he had most wanted to meet.

"So, why the lie John? Why did you say the message was for me and not the lieutenant?" she asked with a mix of compassion, curiosity and annoyance in her voice even though she had known from the start that the message was never intended for her.

"I… I guess I just wanted to meet you ma’am. I didn’t think I would ever have another chance to meet the great leader of the Gate Keepers." he said as he bowed his head to stare at a smudge of dirt on the floor that suddenly became very important.

"Didn’t you think that the lieutenant would need the message that you were entrusted to bring?" Nikki said scoldingly. "Listen John," placing her hand under his chin and pulling his eyes up to meet hers, "don’t ever forget the good that you are here to do. Never let your personal passions come between you and the mission at hand. It will only weaken you." she said as she looked with understanding into his big brown eyes and very reddened face.

"That’s your second lesson, now come with me." Dark hair flipping as she turned, then walking ahead of him down the hall. She never looked back to see if he was following her, she knew he was.


Shaking off his thoughts of the past with a smile, John rose up from his chair and decided that he too needed to get some rest before the battle in the morning.



Chapter 2

Ratatat, ratatat, ratatat…

Vrrrrt, vrrrrt, vrrrrt…

The sound of the old rapid-fire machine-guns and the more powerful lasers ripped through the peacefulness of the early morning countryside as the Fighters and Guard each tried to gain in their positions.

The Guard was so much better equipped but the Eighth unit of the Fighters had the element of surprise as well as the Gate Keepers best on their side this day. While the main force of the Fighters were keeping the Guard busy at the front of their encampment, Nikki led a small group of Fighters down the hill on the backside. They encountered only a small group of Guard as they infiltrated the fence line and dispatched them quickly, using daggers and Kamas to do most of the work instead of guns in order to be as silent as possible. Once that group of Guard were no longer an immediate threat to them, they crouched low as the rest of the small group filed in through the hole in the heavy wire fence line. Making their way across the open encampment without further detection they placed their bombs near the camps battery cells, then quickly made their way back to the hole in the fence line.

Trying to escape before the bombs went off proved to be a bit more difficult however. The hole in the fence had not gone unnoticed, as a much larger contingent of Guard waited for them there.

Holding her fist up silently, Nikki halted her small band of rebels behind huge crates before they were seen. Dark blue eyes quickly surveyed the situation. Then looking over at John, she gave him a smooth nod of her head as she pointed to the left side of the Guard. Knowing his commander and what she was planning, John moved quietly around one of the large crates and waited for the signal as Nikki slipped in between two crates and out of view.

The tension in the air was split with the almost silent sound of Nikki’s foot steps as she leapt from the top of a wooden crate over the heads of two of the Guard, turning in mid air before she landed softly behind them. With one Kamas and her sword drawn, each in one powerful hand, she quickly slit the throats of the two unfortunate Guards standing in front of her. Her booted foot reaching up impossibly high behind her to take out yet another as he approached from behind.

John loved to watch this woman as she fought, so graceful yet so very deadly. But now was not the time for sight seeing, he had work of his own to do. Moving quickly across the encampment, John led the rest of the Fighters into the battle.

Knives and daggers met quickly and ruthlessly with the soft flesh of the startled Guards before they had a chance to even use their lasers. John, with his great size and strength was able to take out two at a time, huge fists doing most of the damage.

Nikki continued to assault the Guard without mercy as they tried their best to defend themselves from this great warrior. Her short sword was covered with their blood as she plunged it into one after another until there was nothing left but crumpled bodies scattered around her.

Quickly returning to the fence line, Nikki looked back to make sure all her men had gotten out. Satisfied that they were all safe, she was the last to leave the encampment just as the first of the bombs exploded. The concussion from the blast sent wooden and metal fragments everywhere as well as throwing Nikki farther in the direction she wished to go.

Rolling and tumbling to a stop not far from the tree line where their horses were kept, Nikki rolled up to her feet in one motion. Shaking the dirt and debris from her long duster, she leapt into the saddle of the huge mare, grabbing the reins while kicking the huge steed with her heels seemingly all in one motion. John, not far behind her, scanned her body quickly for any signs of injuries then climbed on to his own horse alongside of hers as they tried to get as far away as they could before the rest of the bombs exploded.

"Wow, now that’s what I call a close call" John yelled breathlessly as their horses rumbled down the roadway at full gallop away from the now burning Guard encampment.

"Yea, remind me next time never to stay that long again when I’m not invited" Nikki laughed.


Back at the ‘Eighth’, Nikki and John headed to the infirmary to check on the Fighters that they had helped back to camp.

"You should have that looked at Nikki" John said with concern as he noted the blood soaking the front of her tunic.

"Yes mother, I will" she said sarcastically as she looked down at the growing patch of red on the front of her leather tunic, then quickly pulled her duster closed so no one could see the wound. "But first, I need to make sure that they are alright, ya’know"

Yea, I know. You’re always looking out for the rest of us first ‘Oh Great Warrior’. John thought reflectively as they entered the makeshift hospital room. He was only mildly concerned about the wound on Nikki, she had taken much more then that and come out of it just fine, but still… it always made him nervous when she got injured. He not only worried about his friend, he worried what would happen to the Freedom Fighters future if she wasn’t there to lead them.

"You boys all okay in here? I heard there was a fight going on out there and that you guys took out an entire battalion of those Guards" Nikki said cheerfully as she closed the space between her and her men. She made it sound as if she had just found out what they had done but they knew it was she who was the one to do most of the dirty work herself. She always did.

The cheers went up loud and strong from the men not to wounded to do so, as she past by each one of their beds. Her smile widened and with azure eyes sparkling, she gently touched each of them and thanked them for the work and sacrifice they had made that day.

John followed in close behind her, watching the men as they leaned in to get closer to their leader. He noted the smiles on their faces as she gently touched and spoke directly to each one of them. She never let her men think for one moment that she didn’t appreciate their effort. That was one of the things that made her such a great commander, John thought, and why the men would follow her even to their deaths if needed.

Watching Nikki react to her wounded men, John reflected back to the day that his brother Pete was one of the men laying in a hospital bed after a battle not unlike the one they had just gone through. It had been shortly after they had started fighting along with the Freedom Fighters. John had been taken by Nikki herself while Pete, his younger, smaller brother had been recruited for the dangerous task of retrieving the ammo casings after a battle. Pete had gone into the Guard encampment after the fight to retrieve the necessary shell casings but before he could get out with his stash, an unseen Guard fired a round at him, hitting him in the back.

Nikki had witnessed the attack from her vantage point in the forest as she was regrouping her men and tending to the wounded ones, getting them ready for transport back to their Unit. She had looked up just as Pete was trying to make his way through the fence line when she heard the blast from the laser then saw Pete slump over the barbed wire fence.

Without a word, Nikki bolted into a run towards the wounded man. Another round of laser fire forced her to roll to the ground, tumbling and ducking to avoid being hit herself. Using her own weapon, she returned fire as she tumbled then stood upright to run straight at her attacker. Dodging laser fire, Nikki made it to Pete and covered him with her own body as she fired once more, finally taking out the offending Guard.

John, after hearing the familiar shots from Nikki’s Steyr GB-80 penetrate the near quiet of the forest, looked up to see her rolling to a stop near his fallen brother. Getting to his own feet and beginning to run, he saw Nikki grab the younger man and almost effortlessly slip him over her shoulder and begin a somewhat labored run back to the cover of the trees.

As Nikki was making her way back to them, John used his own pistol to randomly fire at the Guard encampment to give cover fire for his friend and brother as Nikki made her way back to them.

Pete spent three days laying in the hospital bed before the wounds he had received began to heal. It took another two weeks in the hospital before the doctors would even let him out and then there were the months of grueling physical therapy. The doctors told Nikki and John that Pete would probably never walk again.

Nikki had never left the young man’s side during the days he was there, giving John breaks in order for him to get something to eat or drink. John knew that Nikki somehow felt responsible for Pete’s injuries. When she had first met the two of them, she had wanted to take John in order to train him but had said that Pete was too young, too small and that he deserved a chance to grow up in peace. But it was John that had finally convinced her to let his brother become an ammo retriever. It was something he and his brother had always wanted to do, to fight for freedom with the best. She reluctantly agreed to John’s wishes and had never regretted that decision. Until now.

"I am so sorry John." He still remembered the hitch in her voice as she bent over the bed that held his brother. "I should have never let him go in there like that." her head bent down low as her eyes filled with tears.

It was not like her to show emotions like that and it had taken John a few minutes to realize that the great commander of the Freedom Fighters had a soft side.

"No Nikki, it wasn’t your fault. Pete was doing what he wanted to do. What he needed to do for the cause." John had told her, knowing that it didn’t seem to matter now what he said, he knew that Nikki would always blame herself for Pete’s injuries.

John knew then that Nikki and he would always be together, and would always take care of each other.


After having her lower left side stitched up from where a large piece of wood from the blast had managed to penetrate her tunic, Nikki moved down the hall towards the debriefing room.

"I think you can handle it from here Lieutenant. Your men did a great job today, you can be very proud of them" Nikki said as her eyes looked unabashedly at the smaller man sitting across from her at his over sized desk. Mmm, not an unattractive man, to be sure. But…

"But, your not leaving so soon are you?" the Lieutenant shot out as his eyes quickly darted up to the warrior’s. "I mean, we sure could use your help, why not stay for a while longer Nikki? We can offer you anything you… desire." He said with a grin and a wink, his own desire for her blatantly showing on his face.

With a smirk and an upturned brow, Nikki quickly made her decision regarding the Lieutenant. "Well, the offer sounds good but I have a few things that I need to tend to then I’ll be heading back to the Springs" her voice feigning apologetically, referring to New Colorado Springs where the Gate Keepers made their headquarters in an old reformer stronghold.

Nikki thought with an inner grin of the thing most on her mind right now as the blood still pounded in her veins from the intense fight she had gone through earlier in the day. This always happened after a battle, her blood beginning to boil at the mere thought of a fight. This was when her passions were at their strongest. She could no more deny them then she could deny food when she was hungry.

John sat opposite of her in the briefing room, watching her skin flush with an inner heat. He saw it in her eyes and the flush in her cheeks, the ‘blood lust’, as he called it. He also knew that some lucky person would be at the receiving end of that passion very soon.

Standing quickly, John looked over to Nikki and winked "You coming Nikki? We had better get a move on before the Lieutenant makes you an offer you just can’t refuse." He knew that the smaller man was no match for this warrior and that she would want to get out of there as soon as possible.

"Yea, your right big guy, we had better get going." With flashing blue eyes shot in John’s direction, they quickly made their way out of the room, leaving a now very dejected Lieutenant.

As they stumbled down the hallway, rolling with laughter, the usually stoic Nikki punched John in the shoulder "You almost made me crack up right there asshole. You looking to get him killed!" she said in reference to her strong passions that were obvious the lieutenant was no match for.

"How do you always know what’s on my mind anyway?" she questioned him with a continued smirk on her lips as she tried to contain herself.

"Just been around you long enough to see what goes on in that pretty head of yours I guess." Watching now as his friend regained her usual unrelenting composure.

"Yea, but it’s not what’s going on in my head that you were seeing in there big guy." She said through the snicker in her voice.

Smiling again, John placed a hand gently on Nikki’s shoulder and looked down into her eyes, "It’s just that I understand what goes through you after a battle like the one we had today."

Looking back at the big man, Nikki was grateful for his devotion and friendship as she realized again that there was no one who knew her quite as well as him.

"Come on John, I’ll treat you to a good meal before we have to head out." Quickly changing the subject before it got out of control.

"Yea, and when I’m eating my meal alone, where will you be?" John grinned as he again looked into the now glinting blue eyes of the warrior.

"Ah well, I think I’ll take a look around the area. Ya never know what you’ll find when you look hard enough."

Laughing again, they past down the hall to the huge doors at the end. Opening them and moving out into the cool early Autumn air in the open mall area of the free town, Nikki’s eyes began to scan quickly around the area not unlike those of a predator.


Chapter 3

The blond woman bent to pick up her books from where they had been scattered along the sidewalk. A small group of children had run past her laughing and playing, twirling her petite body like a top where she stood and sending her books flying. Smiling, she watched as they fled past her and disappeared down an alleyway. She was glad that they had another day to be free and play without having to think about war. This fighting and war has got to stop soon or there will be no children left to carry on she thought grimly now as the smile drifted slowly from her face. Placing the books back into the back pack she once again moved off down the walkway alone.

Relaxing, Nikki leaned one leather clad shoulder against the building in front of the bar then casually crossed her long legs at the ankles. Taking in a slow, quiet breath of the chilled evening air, her mind drifted to the dancer she had just had the pleasure of being with. Sometimes I wonder just where I get the energy! She snickered to herself as she thought of the beautiful woman.

Drawing a long, slow sip from her frothy beer, her attention was drawn quickly to the commotion across the street. The warrior casually watched from her perch in the shadows, her eyes gathering in everything about the scene. She wondered what the young woman was thinking about as she saw a beautiful smile form across her face then fade suddenly as the children all ran past her. Eyes traveling up, Nikki began to take in the rest of her features. She was quite lovely to say the least, the warrior noted with a smile. Her long blond hair shimmering in the light from the lamp post, fell across soft shoulders as a few tendrils of it lay over her eyes almost hiding the blue/green fire that shown in them. Her body was supple and looked relatively strong as the muscles in her arms flexed a little when she bent over to pull the heavy book bag up to fling it comfortably onto her shoulder.

Following with her eyes as the woman made her way down the street, Nikki was drawn unexplainably into following her. Pushing off the hard concrete wall with a nudge of her shoulder, she made her way slowly down the street across from the young woman. She kept far enough back so as not to be detected yet close enough to watch every move the young woman made. A sudden shiver ran down her spine, she felt like a stalker yet could not keep her eyes off this woman. Something familiar about this woman niggled at the back of Nikki’s mind for a brief moment and then was gone. Anyway, she thought, this young woman is alone on a dark street, someone should be protecting her. Right? Yea, and that person might as well be me Nikki smiled to herself as she justified her actions.

They walked silently through the streets, each on their own path yet seemingly connected somehow. Nikki watched as the muscles flexed then softened with each step the woman made. Her body swayed a bit under the heavy weight of the book bag yet she seemed quite capable of carrying it as far as she needed without any help.

An idea struck Nikki at that moment.

As the young woman continued walking, unaware of her secret companion, she turned a corner then headed down a very darkened alleyway. No sooner had the young woman gotten out of view of the warrior when Nikki heard a stifled scream coming from that direction. With all her skill and speed, Nikki quickly closed the gap only to find the girl lying flat on her back and struggling with a rather grungy looking man over her book bag. The young woman had a hold of one strap while the much larger man was pulling on the other.

"Let go of it bitch or I’ll do more to you then just knock you to the ground." The attacker shouted down at the struggling girl.

"Oh, and just what did you have in mind?" the cold, menacing tone filtered to the attackers ears, danger clearly reflecting in her voice.

With a very determined purpose, she quickly closed in on the man from behind.

Startled, the man and girl both dropped their respective ends of the book bag and turned to see who had interrupted the attack. The man, spinning quickly on his heels towards the sound of his intruder, found himself face to face with a rather imposing dark haired woman standing in front of him.

"Who the hell are you?" then regaining his composer, "Listen, if you know what’s good for ya, you better get the fuck out of here before the same thing happens to you that I’m gonna do to your little friend here." He sneered as he pushed the young woman with his foot roughly back to the pavement, sending her hard into the shards of rubble littering the street.

A small trickle of blood appeared quickly from a tiny wound now on her tender cheek. Nikki looked down at her, her eyes softening a bit then quickly scolding herself for not being quicker to react to the situation. Glaring blue hot eyes now on the attacker, Nikki moved with out even a forewarning flinch of her body, managing to swing her right foot up and around in an arc to kick the side of the attackers face with her heavy boot. As the man fell to the ground limply, Nikki briefly looked down at him to assure he was no longer a threat, then turned her attention to the younger woman who was still lying on the pavement.

Reaching a long arm down, she slid her larger hand over that of the young woman’s, pulling her effortlessly to her feet. Checking the small wound on her face, Nikki quickly took a small handkerchief from her pocket and dipped a cloth covered finger into her mouth to wet it. Dabbing the small cut to clean the now drying blood from the girl’s face, Nikki finally had a chance to see the woman up close.

"Please, allow me to help." Nikki said as she finished cleaning the small wound on the woman’s cheek then reached down to easily pull the bag from the pavement.

"And what makes you think I need your help?" the woman replied defensively as she watched her bag being lifted up onto the strong shoulder of her unintended benefactor, unsure if she should trust this rather striking woman.

"Oh, I don’t think you needed any help." Nikki said as she glanced at the man lying on the ground then back to the woman, "I was referring to myself really. You see, I have a slight problem, I can’t seem to let anyone walk alone while they are carrying such a heavy load like this. I always feel that I need to do something to help." Nikki grinned as the corners of her lips began to form a smile.

The young girl’s eyes shot down to the man briefly then began traveling up the length of the tall, commanding woman. As her deep green eyes moved upwards they met the most amazingly blue ones looking back. The young woman found herself temporarily stunned speechless.

"I… I don’t mean to be rude, but who are you?" the woman asked when she finally found her voice.

"Ah now that is truly a deep question, isn’t it? Lets just say I’m someone who happened to come by at the right moment." Nikki replied casually.

Smiling now, the young girl relaxed a bit and let the tall woman take her bag, then asked again, "I mean, what is your name? I need to thank you properly, don’t I?" a soft pink flush beginning to spread across her face.

Nikki’s grin deepened into a full smile as she settled the bag onto her shoulder, then bent down in an informal bow, folding her arm across her stomach slightly, "My name is Nikki, pleasure to meet you… ?" ending her greeting with a question.

Observing the interesting woman before her, Becca began to stumble, "Oh yes, well… my name is Becca. Rebecca really but everyone just calls me Becca. Is Nikki short for some other name? Do you live here? I’ve never seen you before. Will you be staying long? Will you be back this way soon?" Her words came in a rush and when they ended, she stood staring at Nikki with wide green eyes.

Unable to suppress the smirk from her face, Nikki listened to the young woman ramble, asking her questions she no longer even heard.

"Whoa there, take a breath will ya. Glad to meet you Becca and the answers are, no, no, no. But I may have to now." She said, clearly flirting with the young woman. "Are there any more questions?… good!" Nikki said quickly before Becca had a chance to get in another word.

Laughing now the taller woman began to walk down the street, leaving Becca standing there in a moment of temporary befuddlement.

"I’m sorry, I get a bit nervous when I meet someone so beauti… uh, I mean, a stranger, when I meet a stranger." Becca returned breathlessly as she quickly caught up to the warrior, the flush filling her face with heat.

"Not a problem. Why all the books anyway? Are you a student?" choosing to ignore the slip of the tongue from the young woman then sliding her arm casually into that of her smaller companion, she led her down the street.

"No, I’m a writer. I am doing some research on the Freedom Fighters right now for the local free town newspaper." She replied proudly.

Nikki just nodded, then asked, "Do you live near here?"

"Yes, not far actually. In fact, just around that corner there. But, I, uh… wasn’t going straight home just yet." Becca stammered as she relaxed under the guidance of her companion.

"Oh and is there somewhere else that I might be allowed to escort you? As you have already found out, this isn’t the safest area to be alone in." Nikki said hopefully.

"Yes, thank you again for coming to my rescue, I never even saw that guy down there until it was too late." she said, then continued, "Well, I’m quite hungry and was going to a little restaurant for dinner that’s not far from here. It’s quite good actually, would you care to join me?"

"In fact, I am rather hungry and would be glad to join you just as long as I don’t have to cook!" Nikki laughed when her stomach grumbled suddenly at the mention of food, then remembering that she had not eaten since before the battle this morning.


Leaning back in her chair, Nikki extended her long legs, crossing them at the ankles and let out a very satisfied sigh as she slipped her hands behind her head and stretched.

"Ah, that was a wonderful meal. I don’t often get a chance to eat so much or so good." Nikki said, smiling inwardly as she recalled the amount of food that Becca had put away and wondered amazingly where it all went. This young woman was quite beautiful and interesting, Nikki thought, listening to her dinner partner speak of her work relating to the Freedom Fighters story that she was writing. As the woman continued to speak, Nikki casually looked over the trim form of the girl.

"Well, I did mention that it was a very good restaurant. They had more places I understand but that was before…" her voice trailing off as the smile slipped a bit from her face.

"Before?" Nikki questioned, quickly returning her eyes to those of the woman sitting across from her.

"Yea, you know, before the CRW took over and the wars began. Not that I mind living here now mind you, being a free town and all it sure beats living with the reformers. But I hear it was quite a beautiful city before the take over. I just wish it didn’t have to be like this. I see so many of the children go off to war and never come back. It truly is a nightmare." Again, the smile that had attracted the warrior to this young woman was now gone from her face.

"I’m sorry Becca. I know it is hard to loose the people that you care about but we need to regain our land and our nation somehow." Nikki replied reflectively as she looked into those beautiful green eyes again.

"Oh, don’t get me wrong. I’m not a reformer and I believe totally in what the Fighters are doing, I just wish it didn’t have to involve the killing of so many people."

"That’s war Becca, people get killed." Nikki said matter of factly. "It’s never easy though, the destruction and loss of so many lives." her own eyes drifting to the floor.

"You speak as if you know first hand what it is to be at war." Becca said more as a question then as a statement.

"I do, and war is never something that anyone should want to go into lightly. I fight now to make it so that no more young people ever have to see war again." Nikki’s voice filling with regret and sorrow as she looked down into her glass of wine.

"What do you mean that you fight now for those reasons. What could you have ever fought for before?" Becca questioned her new friend.

"Let’s just say that I wasn’t always a fighter for the greater good. I had… other motivations. Now, shall we get you home safely, it is getting rather late." Nikki’s terse reply made Becca understand quickly that this conversation was over.


The door leading to Becca’s apartment was on the street front of a dilapidated building that opened in to a long dark staircase up to the second floor. Opening the door with the key that Becca had handed her, Nikki instinctively looked up the staircase for any signs of danger. Satisfied that the stairwell was safe, then turning quickly as she heard footsteps moving rapidly up the street towards them.

"Get down!" Pushing Becca roughly to the pavement, Nikki quickly retrieved the small Steyr GB-80, 9mm machine pistol from the holster tucked into the small of her back hidden behind her leather duster.

"Vrrrrt, vrrrrt, vrrrrt." The laser fire coming in quick bursts, chipping bits of concrete away from the building above them where they had just been standing, only to have it spray over the two now lying on the sidewalk.

Lying over the top of Becca protectively, Nikki returned fire at the two men closing in on them.

"Ratatat, ratatat." The sound coming from the two quick bursts of the powerful weapon filling the air and it was over. The men quickly coming to a stop only twenty meters from them then falling bonelessly to the pavement. Leaning up, Nikki looked down at the young woman and quickly examined her for any signs of blood.

"Are you alright Becca? Did they hurt you?"

"Uh.. no, I don’t think so. I mean, I’m alright, I’m not hurt. I don’t think. Who are they and why are they trying to kill us?" Becca asked breathlessly as she looked up at the dark woman who was still laying partly on top of her.

"I don’t know, but I’m going to find out. Stay here and don’t move." Nikki commanded with a low, threatening voice. Reluctantly removed herself from her position atop the young woman she headed down the street towards her attackers.


"Mmm, just what I thought, Guard assassins." Nikki’s forehead tightened as the implications of this encounter settled on her when she rejoined Becca then helping her to her feet and drawing her into the safety of the stairwell.

"Guard assassins!?! Why would they be after us?" stunned at the news, Becca let herself be led carefully up the stairs.

"Not us Becca, me. They’re just some people who want me out of the way. Come on, let’s get you inside where you will be safe."

"Where I’ll be safe, what about you?" Becca asked quickly, annoyed at first for being treated as if she were a child then realizing that there was true danger at being out on the street.

"Don’t worry about me, I’ll be fine. See, no damage done." Nikki replied casually as she stretched out her arms when they reached the second floor hallway. Pulling her duster open to displaying her full body for the inspection of the woman as if to prove she wasn’t hurt.

Viewing the now full figure of this commanding woman, Becca fell silent for a brief moment as she looked over the powerful yet beautiful form in front of her. It was as if she were looking at her for the first time tonight. Nikki’s arms stretched out with her black leather duster held wide open and trailing down to the floor making it look like the wings of a great dark angel. Her lower body, wrapped in tight dark brown leather showed off her well muscled legs that matched perfectly with the rest of her impressive figure. As Becca’s eyes traveled up the tall woman, they followed the lines of the leather tunic that seemed to barely hold in her more then ample breasts. She continued to scan up the body of this woman, admiring the fullness of her breasts and strength in her shoulders as they moved with each breath she took. Strong neck muscles reverberated with the quickening pulse lying just under the surface as Becca looked up to finally gaze into the warrior’s deepening blue eyes and crooked little smirk. Shaking the blush from her face, she found her voice again.

"Yes, but they were after you. What if there are more of them? And why would they want to kill you anyway? Just who are you Nikki?" Becca finally asked what she had wanted to all night, wondering what it was that made this woman so vibrant and powerful and needing to know the answers.

"Come on, let’s get you inside and I will tell you all about it, okay?" Nikki said as she pushed the woman gently into the apartment then scanned up and down the hallway before following the woman inside, locking the door behind them.

Surveying the living room with just a dim light filtering in from a flickering neon sign outside to illuminate the area, Nikki quickly moved into each room of the apartment looking for any signs of further danger, all the while drawing down the blinds over each exposing window. Becca stood with her arms crossed over her breasts in the center of her living room watching as the warrior made her inspection into the private enclave that she called home.

"All done now? I would have given you the 25 cent tour if you’d have asked, ya’know." Becca said sarcastically, as she became a bit more irritated when the warrior finally came back into the now darkened room.

"Yep, all safe now." Nikki casually replied as she slipped the gun back into her holster ignoring the irritation growing in the young woman’s voice.

Flipping on a small lamp next to her, Becca looked into the worried eyes of her companion.

"Sit! I need answers. First you rescue me from some idiot with a fetish for my book bag, then you treat me to a wonderful dinner and conversation and then you almost get me killed on the sidewalk in front of my own home. Who are you!" Becca almost shouted as she sat herself down on the sofa and pointed to the space next to her that was apparent where she wanted the tall woman to sit.

"Yea, I guess I do owe you an explanation, don’t I?" Nikki replied as she sat next to Becca. Situating her elbows on top of her knees, her strong hands reaching up to rub the now throbbing muscles at the base of her neck as she leaned forward.

"Yea, I guess you do, so lets get started." Becca demanded even as her voice lost some of its irritation and now filled with interest and concern as she watched the beautiful woman next to her becoming ever more nervous.

"Well, I, um, I really don’t know where to start. I’m not used to being the one doing the talking." Nikki looked around the room almost hoping that there would be another attack so that she could get out of this conversation. She was the one used to doing the interrogations not being on the receiving end of one.

"Well, I have always found that starting at the beginning was one of the best places." Becca quietly replied as she gently slipped her hand onto the leather clad thigh of the obviously agitated new friend of hers.

Eyes falling to the gentle hand on her thigh, Nikki smiled as she felt herself relax. I wonder if this woman realizes just who she has decided to become so friendly with. Nikki thought as she filled her lungs with air and began her tale.

"I don’t know how they knew I would be here but obviously they’ve found a way. Let’s just say, they don’t like me."

Unsure why she continued after that, Nikki found herself unable to look away from the pleading green eyes. "I’m not as nice as you think I am Becca. I can be rather, um… forceful. And I have been known to do some rather horrible things in my time." Nikki began softly again, searching for just the right words.

"What kind of horrible things could you have done? You seem so gentle and kind, albeit a bit ruthless with those men down there tonight and that guy earlier." Becca asked as a sudden shiver ran through her when she remembered how the warrior took out their attackers with such cold precision.

"Well let’s just say that greed for power can be very… irresistible sometimes. It’s not something that I’m proud of and I do try to control that side of my personality now." Surprised at how easy it was to talk about this with the younger woman even as the shame of her past washed over her, her voice became so quiet now that Becca had to strain to hear everything she was saying.

Listening intently to the strong woman seated next to her, Becca couldn’t help but feel sympathy for the obvious torment that the warrior was putting herself through at that moment.

"It couldn’t have been that bad, could it?" Becca asked and then wished that she hadn’t when she saw the remaining glow slip from the eyes of her companion.

"Listen Becca," Nikki began coldly. Once again regaining her usual stoic demeanor as if by flicking a switch off, she turned to face her inquisitor, "I have killed without remorse. I have put people, innocent people through torments that no one should face and all just to fulfill my own greed and lust." the warrior countered then quickly stood and began pacing the room’s length.

Agitation threatening to spin out onto the girl sitting on the sofa, Nikki took in deep, slow breaths to relax the struggle going on with her insides.

Softly, a voice filtered in to Nikki’s consciousness.

"I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to bring up any bad memories for you, I just want to know why someone is trying to kill you. You obviously have found the right path now, so why would anyone want to harm you after all this time?" Becca asked as she moved to stand in front of the warrior, placing her hands up to rest gently on strong shoulders.

I don’t know why but I feel so very close to this woman. I have never felt this way about anyone but I want to know her, all of her, everything about her. I almost feel like we have known each other before in some strange way and I don’t think there is anything she could tell me that would frighten me away from her. Becca’s thoughts ran through her mind as she led the taller woman back to the sofa.

"And do you fight with the Freedom Fighters now?" Becca gently began again, still not fully aware of who was sitting next to her.

"Yes. Have you ever heard of the Gate Keepers?" Nikki asked as she looked again into the soft green eyes of this incredible woman sitting next to her.

"Of course I have. Everyone knows who they are. The special elite force of the Freedom Fighters, right?" Becca replied thinking that there was more to this then just a rhetorical question about a part of the fighting forces.

"Yea, something like that. Well I…"

"You’re the Nikki! Nikki Antolovich, the leader of the Gate Keepers!" Becca interrupted as she gasped out with a clutch in her voice. "I should have known. I mean the way you took out those two men down there and didn’t even blink an eye." Looking with shocked amazement now at the woman sitting next to her.

Then, in a low solemn tone, "Oh my god, I’m so sorry…" Becca quickly interrupted herself again as the realization of who she was with began to sink in.

"I’m the one that should be sorry Becca, I know you must hate me. Let me just assure that you will be safe and I will be outta here." Nikki’s shamed reply came as she quickly stood again, not wishing to look into those green eyes and see the disgust looking back.

"No, no.. it’s not that at all." Reaching up quickly to take Nikki’s hand in hers, then pull her gently back down to the sofa, Becca continued. "It’s just that, well… I have just been reading about you and your past and had I realized who you were, well… I would have never put you through the ringer by asking so many stupid questions." Becca returned guiltily.

Surprised that Becca’s only remorse at being with the assassin, was that she might have hurt the warrior’s feelings and not that she had invited a notorious killer into her apartment. Reaching out and gently clasping the smaller hands in her own, "They weren’t stupid questions. You had a right to know who was trying to kill you and who you have been spending the evening with." Nikki said as she softened her gaze on that of the younger woman’s.

"But I should have realized who you were and never asked you to relive bad memories. I’m sorry for that, please forgive me." Becca said as she leaned up to place a soft kiss on the cheek of the warrior.

An unexpected smiled pulled up the corners of Nikki’s mouth as the warm lips left her cheek.

"There’s no way you could have known who I was. And you don’t have to feel sorry for making me think about my past, I think about it all the time." Nikki said softly, then quickly wanting to change the subject.

"Come on, you better get some sleep now. And I really don’t think you should be alone tonight. I’ll stay out here on the sofa if you don’t mind, I don’t want any more interruptions this evening." Nikki said as she stood, drawing Becca up with her.

"Yea, I guess I am a bit tired after everything that has happened." Glad that the woman was going to stay after all. "Let me get you some bedding." Becca said as she turned to walk down the hall in the direction of the linen closet.

Yea, like I’m going to be able to sleep even one wink tonight. Becca mused as she lay in bed wondering about the compelling woman in the other room as well as the curious feelings she was having for the warrior.

Shaking the thoughts for a moment, Becca called out to the warrior in the other room, "Good night Nikki and thank you."

"Go to sleep." Nikki replied as a widening smile spread across her face.

I’m sorry Becca, I sure didn’t mean to drag such an innocent young woman as yourself into my life. Nikki thought as she leaned back against the soft pillows of the sofa, arms tucked neatly behind her head, eyes blankly looking up at the ceiling. Her own mind now filling with thoughts of the woman in the other room. Nope, no sleep tonight.

Chapter 4

The smell of burning bacon woke the woman from her sound sleep and somewhat disturbing dreams. What is that horrible smell? Becca thought as she rubbed the sleep from her eyes and pulled herself from her soft bed.

"Hi’ya sleepyhead. Just thought I would make us some breakfast. Sorry about burning the bacon though. I never was much of a cook." Nikki said as the young woman walked lazily into the small kitchen. "Would you like some coffee though? I can at least do that without burning it."

"Um, yea, coffee would be good." still rubbing the sleep from her eyes and running her hands through her tousled hair, "About the bacon, don’t worry about that. Here let me." Becca said as she gently nudged the warrior away from the stove. Then, crinkling her nose, she immediately threw the charred pieces of bacon into the trash and set about making a new batch.

Filling a large mug that Nikki had found in one of the cupboards with the rich, dark and hard to find coffee, she walked over to Becca and placed it down next to her as she watched the young woman prepare a new meal for them.

Looking over the tousled blond hair of the young woman, Nikki couldn’t help the corners of her lips from drawing up into a grin. Blue eyes traveled over the form in front of her, taking in the gentle strength that wasn’t quite hidden under the long night shirt that the girl wore. Her soft curves evident as Nikki continued downwards, her smile growing ever wider.

"So, what’s on your agenda today?" Becca asked absently as she cracked open the eggs, letting them fall gently into the hot frying pan.

Letting her mind come slowly out of her survey of this woman, Nikki looked back up. "Well, I do have to get in touch with a few people to arrange for your safety and then I will be leaving." she said as she studied the look on the face of the woman standing at the stove.

"Oh no you don’t." Becca sternly replied as she spun around where she stood to face the woman who was now sitting at the table. "You can’t just come in here, disrupt my whole life and expect me to just let you walk out of here, do you?" The last of her words not quite coming out as she had intended… Or had they Becca wondered for a moment before she continued.

"Take me with you. I can help." Becca pleaded. "I’m a writer and what better way to record history then to witness it first hand. I have nothing to keep me here, no reason to stay. And anyway, I wouldn’t feel safe with anyone other then you to protect me. Not after last night." her words rambled out quickly, hoping they were enough to convince the warrior.

"Oh no ya don’t. You’re not coming with me. I live a very dangerous life and you would definitely not be safer with me." Nikki replied as she quickly removed herself from the table and strode over to where the girl was standing.

"Look, I have no family here and this town isn’t really my idea of a place to do any serious writing. It’s rather dull here ya’know. I need to be able to write about what is truly happening in order to make sure that history is preserved the right way. And anyway, you owe me."

"That’s right, I do owe you." Nikki said softly as she placed her hands on Becca’s shoulders when she came in closer to the younger woman.

Looking gently down into emerald eyes, Nikki continued seriously, "I almost got you killed last night and the way I’m going to repay that is to ensure that you are safe. Right here, at home, dull as it may be. I am certainly not going to take you into some war zone. Now that’s final." Nikki replied as she grew tired of the argument.

"Fine! You think I’m some little girl who can’t take care of myself. Listen, I’ve been living on my own for a year, I’m not as innocent or defenseless as you think. And, I’ll have you know that I have seen what war can do. I’m not afraid!" her words coming in a rush as the heat built in her face.

"The mighty Gate Keeper just doesn’t want to be bothered with someone tagging along. Why don’t you just leave now before someone else comes and tries to kill us." Becca continued angrily as she quickly turned away from the warrior, spinning out of her grasp.

"Listen, I don’t want to make you mad. I really do appreciate your company and I don’t think of you as a little girl," Nikki said gently as she once again placed her hands onto the shoulders of the woman now standing with her back to her, "that’s why I don’t want to see you get hurt anymore. And as far as being afraid of war, well, you should be. It’s never a situation that someone should want to put themselves in."

Turning the now visibly shaking young woman in her hands, Nikki looked deeply into her eyes and saw a small tear begin to form in the corner. Brimming over finally, it made it’s way down the soft cheek, drawing a wet path down to her quivering lips.

Unable or unwilling to stop herself, the warrior slowly bent to kiss the tear away…



The small bomb shattered the window just before it exploded, sending shards of glass through the air like tiny missiles projected towards their target.

"Get down!" Nikki shouted as she again flung the girl to the floor and protectively laid her own body over that of the woman’s.

Feeling the glass penetrate her leather tunic and tearing into the muscled flesh of her back, Nikki laid still until she felt no more objects hit her raw skin. Glancing down at the young woman under her, Nikki then moved up quickly. Carefully peering over the shattered windowsill to the street below, she watched as the car fled quickly down the street.

Nikki turned then to look into the terrified eyes of the young woman still lying on the floor. Damn!

"Shh, I’ve gotcha now. Are you alright?" Nikki hurriedly asked as she scooped Becca up, cradling her protectively in strong arms.

"Y.. ye.. yea, I’m fine." Becca’s voice hitched as she began to relax in the strong embrace. "You seem to be asking me that quite a bit in the past twenty four hours. You see Nikki, I will not be safe here, not if you leave me. I have to come with you now." Becca said as she felt herself melt into the strong arms wrapped tightly around her.

"Mmm, maybe your right. I do need to get you out of here, that’s for sure. Come on, I know where we can go until I decide what to do." Nikki said as she stood up, easily pulling the young woman with her.

"Oh my god, you’re hurt!" Becca’s startled voice stopped the warrior as she turned around, revealing a tattered and blood soaked back.

"No, no, I’ll be fine. Just a few nicks. Now come on, we have to get out of here before they come back." Nikki said quickly as she pulled Becca through the doorway of the now burning apartment.


"Well, who do we have here?" John asked as he came into the infirmary eyeing the young woman with a worried look standing next to Nikki. Not surprised to see Nikki there, she was after all quite accustomed to being stitched up, he was more curious about the woman with her.

The last time after a battle, Nikki ended up with a few stitches just like that on her back that she got from the fingernails of a young woman not unlike the one standing right here. I wonder if that’s what happened… John’s imagination was interrupted quickly as Nikki looked at him, seeing what was going behind his eyes.

"John!" reading his mind with a smirk, Nikki quickly explained, "I would like to introduce you to Becca. Her apartment was firebombed this morning as she was making breakfast for us."

Not coming out as she had planed, Nikki continued to try to explain, "I mean, last night there were two assassins who tried to kill us so I stayed the night, for security reasons," She added "and this morning, well... they came back for a second try." Feeling better about her explanation she smiled up at the young woman with her, then looked back over to John.

"Uh uh, whatever you say Nikki. Glad to meet you Becca, my name is John." he said smiling as he extended his huge hand in Becca’s direction.

"Well, glad to meet you John. Nikki got hit with some of the glass from the window and needed a few stitches but the doctor said she’ll be alright." feeling her hand lost in his giant grip.

"Yea, she’s pretty tough. I don’t think a few shards of glass will keep her down." John said coolly even though a tiny bit of concern filtered into his voice.

Assassins, huh? This isn’t good my friend. John pondered with a deepening crease of anxiety on his face.

"Listen, I don’t know how they knew where I was last night, but we better find out, soon. I want you to go back over to that little Lieutenant and find out what’s going on around here. Looks like we have a leak somewhere and my guess is that it’s him or someone in his office." Nikki said pensively.

"Yea, I’ll get right on it. You know, I didn’t trust that guy after you turned down his offer last night. Something just didn’t sit right when that little ego of his got deflated like that."

Shaking off his concerned thoughts about the lieutenant for a moment, John eyed the girl next to Nikki.

"So, what’s your plan now, Nikki?" John inquired as his eyes traveled back and forth between the two women, interest now showing at the corners of his mouth.

Nikki was well aware of what John was thinking and quickly let him know that she had things under control.

"Don’t worry John, Becca is a big girl." smiling at Becca as she referred to their argument earlier in the day. "I can’t leave her here now, not after what happened. They would be sure to find her again and try to get information from her. I can’t let that happen. She will be safer with me. I’ll take her to New Colorado Springs."

John knew not to continue the conversation about Becca, not after Nikki had her mind made up anyway. And the Springs would definitely be a safer place then anywhere around some assassins.

"Well then, lets get you fixed up and headed out of here pronto before the bad guys find you again." the big man said as he gave in to his friend. Well, looks like you have a traveling companion princess. Good for you, you needed this. Maybe she’ll be able to keep you out of trouble. And she’s pretty cute too. John thought, smiling to himself as they left the room together.


Chapter 5

"Do I have to ride on the back of that, that… thing?" Becca asked as she stood in front of the huge motorcycle.

"No, you could always walk. But I think you might get a bit tired." Came the reply from the warrior as she smirked then finished packing the saddle bags, throwing them easily over the back of the old Harley.

"Great. Not only do I almost get killed by stray laser fire and a bomb, now I have to put myself in even more danger by riding on this… machine." Becca mumbled to herself as she watched the warrior glide smoothly onto the seat of the powerful motorcycle.

Eyes traveling now from the bike to the warrior, Becca was surprised at how confident this woman was. She sat there in the seat of the huge bike, one boot hitched up onto the started peg while the other balanced the heavy machine easily from it’s perch on the dusty ground beneath. Her dark hair had been neatly tied behind her in a long braid that trailed down her back and out of the way. Black leather duster split in back and wrapped around her legs then neatly tucked under flexing muscled thighs as she moved slightly to settle herself onto the seat. Matching black leather covered the rest of her body, top to bottom as it wrapped tightly around each well defined curve of muscle and…

Looking up, Becca finally saw the hand held out for her to take. As the pink flush filled her face, Nikki just smiled in her direction, then pulled the woman effortlessly around to sit in behind her. Relaxing now in the comfort of the warm body behind her as the woman settled herself into position against the warrior’s back, wrapping her arms tightly around her waist.

"Hang on." Nikki said simply as she kicked the starter, sending the thundering sound of the engine to fill the air.

"Oh.. my.. god, what have I gotten myself into?" Becca whispered to herself as she felt her body thrown backwards then forward to slam into the strong back in front of her as the huge machine roared off down the road and her grip tightened.

Nikki smiled as she ignored the statement from Becca and chose only to relish in the feel of the warm body pressing tightly against her own. It had been so long since she had been with anyone, friend or lover for this long a period of time and she was enjoying the strange comfort that she found in it. As well as the equally strange feeling of familiarity she had with the young woman.

I don’t know if it will be any safer being with me little one but I sure am going to do my best to keep you from harm. I don’t understand it, but I somehow feel that we are meant to be together like this, like you’ve been with me all my life.

Shaking the thought, Nikki eased up a little on the throttle of the huge motorcycle and headed west out of town.


"Any chance we could stop soon so we could have something to eat?" Becca shouted into the ear of her companion as her stomach growled loudly over the sound of the powerful engine.

"Yea, I know a place we can stop just over those hills. Just a few more minutes." came the reply from in front of her as a hand casually reached back to reassuringly touch Becca’s thigh.

They had been riding for nearly five hours now and Becca’s muscles were feeling the fatigue of being used in unfamiliar ways. The tranquil beauty of the road was very relaxing but not enough to keep her body from screaming out for relief from the constant vibration from the Harley.

They had not seen another living soul since they had left the little town together and that gave Becca time to reflect on the past 24 hours. It’s unreal how much has changed in so short a period of time Becca thought. I can’t help but feel though, that somehow, this was meant to happen, that we were meant to be together. The niggling thoughts continued, then a sudden shiver of quilt ran down her spine as she thought about the past evening. I can’t believe that I kept hounding her about her past! For crying out loud, Becca she reprimanded herself when she thought of all the questions she continued to ask the warrior.

Mmm yea, that’s right, she is a warrior. Jeez, and not just any warrior, but the most powerful and… feared warrior of the Gate Keepers. She thought as another shiver moved through her body, this time for other reasons. I know all the things I have read and heard about her. How she is ruthless and has a lust, is that what they said… for power and control. But all I have seen directed towards me is kindness and caring.

Becca’s musings continued until she felt the motorcycle slow down. Looking up from where she had been resting her head on the taller woman’s shoulder, Becca saw the road crest over the top of a hill as they slowed even more, then left the dusty road altogether.

Coming to a stop near a small stand of wild apple trees, Becca noted the smell of strawberries as she turned and spied out the few small bushes around them. The sound of crickets and birds filled the air, as her ears began to register the quiet solitude of her surroundings. She could also make out the gentle babbling of a small brook to her right as a soft breeze carried the sound past them.

"It’s perfect!" Becca exclaimed as she reluctantly untangled herself from the warrior’s waist and climbed off the bike. Stretching her arms up over her head then twisting her hips and hearing the shudder of cracks as they traveled down her spine. Breathing in deep the sun warmed air, Becca quickly set out a blanket and the pack with their food.

Nikki looked over this woman with an unabashed examination. Her arms over her head as she stretched made her warm, thigh length coat open to reveal the rest of her form. Dressed in faded blue jeans and an over sized dark burgundy sweater it was still possible to make out the details of her curves. Her little pony tail fell over her shoulder softly as her emerald eyes closed peacefully when she stretched. The soft contours of her face, warmed by the sun as she looked skyward now took on a radiance of their own. She was beautiful Nikki thought as she took in every detail of this young woman.

Her golden hair, tied behind her head loosely, spun in a wild arc as she twisted her body. The rays of the sun shimmered on each strand when it flowed effortlessly through the air around her making a halo of gold flash over her head.

Nikki continued observing the woman, then, hearing the cracks from her back, "Damn, what was I thinking, I’m sorry Becca, I should have known you couldn’t keep up this pace. I mean, it’s not like you’re a trained fighter. I’ll take it a little slower." reprimanding herself for not stopping sooner.

"Hey, it was just a kink in my back. Don’t worry about it, okay." Becca replied as she began pulling the saddle bags from the bike.

Setting out to help the girl, Nikki drew out a few water bottles to place beside the food pack. Then taking a small empty sack from her bag, she looked over at the girl, "Ya want some of those strawberries?" she asked as she headed over to the small bushes that were over laden with the sweet fruit.

"Mmm, yes, that would be nice and maybe some of those apples. We can always take some with us for the road." Came the reply as Becca continued to dig out the fixings of their humble meal.

"How did you know about this place Nikki? It is so perfect, so beautiful…" Becca’s voice trailed off as she watched the tall woman reach up to pluck an apple from the tree. Mmm, yea, perfect and beautiful alright.

"Oh, I get around." Nikki said with a quick grin as she waggled her eye brows, then continued to pick the fruit.

Watching the warrior for a few minutes, Becca took in everything about the woman as she stretched up to take the fruit from the tree. Nikki had removed her coat and Becca could see every pulse and flex of the muscles in her strong back and shoulders. Her deep azure eyes intent on each piece of fruit as she picked it. Her focus only on the task at hand. Long powerful fingers wrapped around the golden fruit as she twisted it before pulling it from its branch. Mmm…

Shaking her thoughts back to her own task, Becca spread the blanket down under a large oak tree, then removed her own coat as the sun warmed the air when it filtered through the over hanging branches. Situating herself comfortably, she began to fill a plate with small bits of cheese and a piece of bread then laying it beside her for the warrior.

Brining back a sack full of apples and one of strawberries, Nikki sat down beside her. Placing her weapons beside her and rolling her duster into a tight ball, she set it down behind them on the blanket. Reaching out to take the offered plate, she placed three huge berries onto it for Becca.

"Mmm, they look so good." Becca exclaimed as she took one up in her hand, bringing it slowly to her lips.

Nikki watched in silence as the younger woman slipped the berry past perfect white teeth. Her tongue darting out to capture an errant drop of juice as it escaped her mouth.

As Becca looked up, she saw the older woman watching her, a flush spread quickly across her cheeks as she tried to think of something to say.

"So, do you think John was upset when you asked him to stay back in town?" Becca asked after she gathered her voice again.

"No, he knew I wanted him to stay and help the local fighters, not to mention to try and find out who gave up the information about me being there." Nikki replied casually, then plopped a berry into her own mouth. Reaching down, she tore off a large piece of bread for herself, then handed the small loaf back to Becca.

"But don’t you two always travel together? I mean, I hope I wasn’t the one to, ah, um…"

"No, we don’t always travel together and you didn’t do anything wrong. Got that." Nikki broke in as she looked over at the girl, curious as to where this line of questioning was going.

"Listen to me." Nikki began again as she gently placed a hand onto the knee of the woman sitting next to her. "John and I have been friends for a long time and nothing is going to change that. But I have a responsibility to your safety now. John knows that and he understands me and what I have to do."

"But aren’t you two, well, um lovers?" Becca asked sheepishly as the warmth of Nikki’s hand penetrated her blue jeans covered knee.

"Ha! Where would you ever get that idea?" Nikki laughed at the thought of her and John together. "John came to me as a young boy wanting to learn to fight. I taught him how to handle himself and he ended up as one of my best men. He’s capable of going to battles in my place when I’m otherwise busy. He’s also saved my life on more occasions then I care to think about. But lovers, no. We have never been that to each other."

"But I just thought, well… you know. You two are very close and well, he seems to know you so well, that’s all." Becca replied as she felt the heat from the blush taking over her face again.

"Well, we are not lovers now or ever have been. But John certainly does know what I… need." Nikki said simply with a grin and a twinkle in her eye as she handed the girl another strawberry.

Becca wondered what Nikki had meant by the way she said the word need, but decided that she would leave that question for another time.

Satisfying their need for food, the two women laid back on the blanket and relished in the calming affect that the location provided. With her duster bunched under her head now, Nikki rolled to her side. Placing her elbow on the soft covering of the blanket, she rested her cheek in the palm of her hand and watched the young woman as she stared up into the clouds.

"You see that one up there? It looks like a bear standing on its back legs." Becca said, pointing to the sky, suddenly shaking the warrior out of her day dream.

Looking upward, "A bear, where do you see that?" came the inquisitive reply.

"Right there, to the west, next to that big darker cloud that’s hiding the sun." Becca pointed, the feeling of peace settling over her as she watched the clouds form into a wide array of images only to be scattered in the breeze then form again into something else.

Nikki smiled at her companion, then leaned back, duster under head and arms stretched underneath, the warrior finally began to unwind. She listened as Becca described what her imagination brought to mind.

Breathing in deeply the sun warmed air, her ears taking in the lilt and fluctuation of the girls voice, Nikki’s mind began a slow winding path around some of her own images of the young girl.

Hum, I haven’t felt this relaxed in a long time Nikki pondered as she continued to listen and imagine.


"Well, we better be heading out before it gets too late. I don’t want to be out here when it gets dark." Nikki finally said reluctantly as she pushed herself up from the warm blanket and stood stretching her arms over head, then reaching down to gather the water bottles. "I’ll get some fresh water while you pack up some of this, okay?"

Yawning, Becca looked over at her from her vantage point and realized just how secure she was feeling at the moment. Mmm, I don’t think I care where we are when it turns dark out, as long as you’re next to me.

"Um, sure, not a problem." Becca said as she stretched her own arms out when she rose up.

Leaning over the rapidly moving water of the brook, Nikki smiled as she thought about how interesting it was to have someone with her. She had most always traveled alone and hadn’t really paid much attention to things like the smell of strawberries growing wild in the fields or the shape that the clouds were taking when they floated past in the sky.

Standing and hefting the now full water bottles up, Nikki headed back to the small camp that had been their home for the last few hours. She really hadn’t intended on staying this long, but, what the heck, it was nice to just relax for a change. Then shifting the rope on her shoulder that strung together the bottles she moved back up the hill side.

As she crested the small knoll, a sudden, deadly tingle ran through her. What was wrong? Something had happened, she could feel it. Setting the bottles down quietly in the grass, she lowered herself to the ground, moving silently to the top of the small hill, then peered through the branches of the small bush that lent itself as cover.

In the small camp, Nikki could make out two ominous figures as they towered over the young woman who was now laying sprawled out on the ground.

"You here all alone, a pretty thing like yourself?" the one asked as he scanned the area for a possible companion to the young woman.

"Yea, pretty lady, looks like you’re all ours now and we plan on having some fun with you." The other one spoke as he reached down to grab at the sweater that Becca wore, ripping it open clean down to her waist.

"You do, do ya?" Came the low, menacing voice behind them.

Startled, the two men looked up quickly to see the warrior standing right next to them.

"I suggest you leave now before you piss me off, and you don’t want to do that." Nikki growled at them as her voice dropped an octave.

"Yea, you and who’s army are gonna stop us, bitch." The man to the left said as he regained his composure and quickly pulled a knife from his boot. The other man quickly moving around in front of the girl to stand next to his partner, his own blade grasped tightly in his hand.

"Oh, I don’t need an army to take care of you two pip squeaks but your gonna need one just to clean up your body parts." Nikki replied with a menacing grin at the two invaders. She was worried about the girl but she also enjoyed this bantering. Yea, this is fun she thought with a smirk as she tried to bait the men to move farther away from Becca.

"Come and get it." Nikki snarled as she wiggled a finger in their direction then crouching down a little, her weight shifting to her back leg.

At a sprint, the man to the right approached Nikki quickly, only to find the heal of her boot shoved hard into the middle of his chest, sending him flying backwards ten feet before landing hard on his back and sprawled out on the grass, knocking him cold. With startled eyes the other man to the left of Becca looked down at his partner, then quickly up to the glinting eyes of the warrior who had taken him out. But before he could even react, a large sack of apples came crashing down on his head from behind, knocking him cleanly to the ground as well.

Startled blue eyes met fiery green as Nikki looked passed the now unconscious man to the young woman standing behind him. Becca stood motionless holding the sack limply in her hand.

"Good girl." Nikki said with a wink and a smile after regaining her composer.

Becca stood there limply for a moment before her own smile spread wide across her face. Wow, I can’t believe I did that! Must be Nikki’s influence…

"I.. I don’t know how that happened. One minute I was standing there watching that man go flying to the ground after you kicked him and the next, I was swinging the sack at the other man’s head." Came the breathless voice.

"Well, it’s a good thing you did Becca, I don’t know if I could have taken both of them." Nikki grinned and winked.

"Yea, right, like you really needed my help. But it felt good to do that anyway." Becca replied as she began to swing the sack around in a mock attack.

Smiling at Becca’s new found bravado, Nikki began to look over the now beaming younger woman. Her sweater was torn open but all in all, she looked unhurt. At least on the parts that Nikki could see, which at this moment was quite a bit.

"Hey, you okay? They didn’t hurt you, did they?" Nikki’s voice showing more concern now.

"Nah, I’m okay. They just came out of nowhere and scared the shit out of me. I didn’t even hear them come up." Becca said as she looked down at the men when a tremble ran through her.

"Come to think of it, you came up real quiet too, how did you even know they were here?" Becca wondered as a shiver fear ran through her when she became suddenly aware of the real dangers of being out here in the wilderness.

"Well, if you always expect danger, you’re never taken by surprise. Guess we have a few lessons to teach you, huh?" Nikki said as she smiled at her friend.

Her attention then drawn back to the men lying sprawled out on the ground. Quickly removing their pants, Nikki shredded them before using them to bind their arms together around the base of the tree.

"There, that should hold them for awhile." She smirked as she helped the now more composed Becca gather the rest of their things and place them back into the saddle bags.

"You did good work back there Becca, I’m proud of you." Nikki said as they climbed back onto the bike.

"You’ve got guts, I’ll give ya that." Nikki whispered to herself as a wide smile appeared on her face.

Pulling a new sweater out of the bag, Becca looked up into the deepening blue eyes that watched her. "Thanks. I was so scared though, I don’t even think I knew what I was doing until I had done it. And that was my favorite sweater!"

"Well, don’t worry about it Becca, it could have been worse, I’ll get you a new one when we get to the Springs." Nikki said, a widening smile forming over perfect white teeth.

A little embarrassed, Becca turned her back to the warrior before removing the torn sweater, then slipping the new one over her head she then turned back around.

"Come on, let’s get outta here." The warrior said as she slid onto the seat of the bike, choosing to ignore the reddening blush of the young woman.

Becca had her own smile forming at the corners of her lips now. Yea, I did do pretty good back there, didn’t I. The girl thought proudly as she smoothed the newly donned sweater over herself, then placing her coat tightly around her body, she looked up into blue eyes that were watching her very intently. All she could do was smile as the flush filled her face.

After Becca settled herself in behind the warrior, Nikki fired up the engine and pulled back onto the road, only then allowing herself to relax against the warmth of the surprisingly now more interesting woman behind her.

Chapter 6

They traveled like that for the next four days, riding along the dusty country roads by day, trying to stay out of the path of any Guard that may be in the area. Then spent their evenings in small clearings where they made camp each night as they headed towards New Colorado Springs.

"Hey, I sure am glad for one thing about earlier today." Becca said as she stoked and prodded the fire into something usable.

"Yea, and what’s that?" came the reply from behind her as Nikki walked back out of the woods, readjusting her leather pants.

"Well, if we hadn’t stopped, we wouldn’t have these apples right now." Becca said as she easily cut off a slice and handed it up to Nikki when she reentered the camp area around the fire.

"Mmm, yea. There’s a bright side to everything, I guess." Nikki replied, amazed at how innocent and forgiving this girl could be. Then taking the wedge of apple and popping it into her mouth as she sat down next to Becca.

Becca looked up at Nikki just in time to see a tiny trail of juice slip out the corner of the woman’s mouth and run down to her chin.

In sudden reflex, she leaned over and ran her thumb over the errant drop on Nikki’s chin, then slipped the captured drop on her thumb into her own mouth to suck the juice from it.

"Uh.. thanks." Nikki said as she looked at the girl in surprise and with one upturned brow.

"Um, sure, no problem." Becca said as she suddenly realized what she had done.

Damn, where did that come from Becca thought as she quickly returned her attentions to the pot she placed on the fire, a flush reddening her face.

Um hum… Nikki smiled to herself as she too turned her attention to the fire.


Resting by their small fire when the stars came out each evening, Nikki would lay back to look up at them, trying to find patterns in them like Becca had done with the clouds. Becca, sitting closer to the fire to capture the flickering light, would write in her books of their travels. Chatting quietly together on those cool evenings by their fire, they slowly began to learn about each other.

Nikki found out that Becca had come from a very strict family. Her father being one of the reformers and her mother quietly by his side. As a good woman should be he had always told his daughter. She was set to get married, at her fathers urging, in only a month when she had left home without her parents consent or knowledge and headed west in search of the nearest free town. She just couldn’t see herself under the thumb of some man she didn’t love. Couldn’t love. She didn’t agree with the reformers or their tactics and knew that, no matter how much she loved her family, she just didn’t belong there.

When she arrived in the free town, she settled in quickly and applied her writing skills to getting a freelance job at the newspaper. She had been living on her own for nearly a year when she met Nikki.

Nikki thought about how tough that must have been for the girl. How she must have had to struggle with no one there to lean on, no one to help her. She gave the young woman credit too for standing up for what she believed in and to have the courage to leave her family and home in order to live her life the way she thought best.

Becca also learned about Nikki on that long road they traveled together. Most of the time however, Becca had to spend a great deal of effort prodding the warrior into talking about herself. She found out that the warrior indeed had a very sinister past like she had read about in her books. But the whole truth was worse then what had ever been published. Nikki had begun as a rebel, trying to save her home and family from the reformers like all the others, but had somehow lost her way. The greed for power had taken it’s effects on Nikki and she eventually brought together people like herself, ruthless mercenaries, who were just as bent on greed and self gratification as they were on their desire to destroy the reformers. She became very powerful and was savage in her quest for revenge and control. Killing became a way of life for Nikki. Power over people became her only source of satisfaction. Nikki didn’t tell the young woman everything though, Best to leave some things unknown Nikki thought as a feeling of guilt and remembered lust washed over her when she relayed these tales to the younger woman.

But Nikki had found herself becoming more and more restless as time moved on. She finally left her private little army and began traveling aimlessly, trying only to forget all the pain and suffering she had caused so many people.

It was during these many months alone that Nikki took stock of her life and what she had been doing. She realized that she had turned into the type of person that she hated the most. Her life had become filled with greed and control just like that of the reformers. Nikki spent many days and nights just meditating and fasting, reflecting on her life and the changes she knew she needed to make. The changes necessary in order to regain her life and her dream of ridding the nation of the evil that had possessed it.

It was then, on a cold snowy day in February, Nikki headed back into the world, to forget her self absorbed ways and to begin fighting for the freedom of all people.

Nikki brought her new regard for life to an rebel army camp. Quickly taking control of the troops, as was her true nature to do, she taught them what they needed to know in order to win against the reformers. It was at that time that the leader from another town had been taken and the riots began. Nikki quickly seized the moment and brought both political and army sides together to form the Freedom Fighters.

She organized the elite Gate Keepers out of the best fighters and scholars from the group. Together they trained and lead the forces in their quest for a new nation. One born from the desire for the freedom of all people.


As Becca and Nikki got farther west and higher in altitude, the weather changed to become colder as brief sprinkles of frigid rain interrupted their otherwise peaceful journey. Becca was glad finally to be entering New Colorado Springs, and saw immediately why the Freedom Fighters had wanted to reclaim this town. It was beautiful although much smaller then what it had been once, she found out from Nikki. The town sat nestled at the base of the Rocky Mountains to the west with the high plains drifting forever off to the east. Cheyenne Mountain to the south of town and Pikes Peak directly to the west with its constant snow cap stood as giant sentries over the entire valley below. The pleasant aroma of pine and cedar filled the air as the smoke from fireplaces drifted lazily up into the deep blue sky above.

In the old days, before the reformers had taken over, NORAD had claimed Cheyenne Mountain as a home base. When the reformers came to power however, they took it over easily as just another part of their authorized revolution. They thought that it was so well secured deep with in the mountain that none believed it could have been penetrated by the rebels.

That was before Nikki and the Freedom Fighters though. The battle for the post was hard fought and many people died in those mountains and that beautiful city, but the forces of freedom finally won over in the end. Now the Freedom Fighters and the Gate Keepers use the hidden mountain encampment as their base and the town of New Colorado Springs became one of the great free towns in the country.




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