Standard Disclaimers: I don't hold the copyright on 'Xena: Warrior Princess,' but, since I haven't used, or referred to, Xena and Gabrielle in any way in this work of fiction I claim Mahu and Jordan as my own. This is an alt. story, and contains mature subject matter. If this offends you stop reading now.
Extreme violence warning - read with caution.
There is power in every living thing....
Glossary of Terms
Data String 022
"Mommy!" Etain cried. "Mommy!"
"Shh, baby. Momma's here now." Jordan grabbed her child off the floor beside the fallen Informer and cradled her against her chest. Then she ran.
Tria grabbed the back of her shirt as they came to an intersection. "This way," she said and tugged them to the right, following behind Jordan again as the tunnel narrowed.
A laser beam barely missed Jordan's ear. She ran faster, desperately clinging to Etain. Another shot singed through her hair.
Another shot, and she heard Tria stumble, felt her falling across her back. They tumbled to the floor, warm blood washing Jordan's back in a crimson flood.
Etain screamed as she was pinned beneath them.
With a strangled cry Jordan pushed Tria away and turned. Silver eyes flashed in the darkness. A red beam danced across the back of Etain's pale hair....
"No!" Jordan screamed. "Etain!" She fought in the darkness as hands grabbed for her shoulders. "Let me go. Etain?"
The hands released her and she scrambled up. A light suddenly turned on and she blinked against the blinding glare.
"Are you okay?"
Slowly Jordan focused on the woman in front of her.
The woman, Mahu, held her hands up, as if to ward off blows. "Jordan?" she asked and took a tentative step forward. Jordan took two steps back and Mahu stopped. "Bad dreams, nothing more. You're safe here, remember?"
"No. Never safe," Jordan whispered hoarsely. She dropped gracelessly back to the bed and drew her knees up to her chest. Oh, Etain, baby. I promised you sunshine and sunsets. I promised...and you died.
Mahu knelt in front of the shattered woman and gently touched her on the knees - relieved when she didn't strike out or run away. "You are safe," she said softly. "I won't let anyone hurt you again."
Jordan blinked, looked up and met pale blue eyes. Etain's eyes, only lighter. Like the sky. Her hand stretched out of its own accord and her thumb trailed down a darkly tanned cheek. "Etain would have liked you," she said.
A sad smile tugged up the corners of Mahu's mouth. Jordan's thumb across her cheek was warm...tender...and hesitant. "I would have liked her, too." She drew the sheets up, from where they'd fallen on the floor, and said, "Come on, back to bed now."
Like a small child Jordan scurried up to the pillows and allowed the Tiva to tuck her in. And almost - almost - held out her arms for a goodnight hug.
Mahu hesitated as she stood beside the bed, looking down on Jordan whose eyes were wide though sleepy. Her hair was mussed and spiky, her face was pale, and she resisted the simple instinct to cradle the woman in her arms and promise that there would be no more bad dreams. That tomorrow would be a new day and life would go on. But, platitudes meant nothing to a woman who'd lost part of her life, her child. The Tiva was ready to walk away and return to the couch when Jordan made a strange noise.
"Would you like me to stay...till you fall asleep?" Mahu asked.
Tears ran silently down Jordan's cheeks as she regarded the woman standing beside her. "Please," she finally said.
So, the dark haired woman did the only thing she could. She sat on the edge of the bed with her hands folded in her lap to keep them from shaking.
Jordan closed her eyes, but it was a long time before she fell asleep. Before she did she felt warm fingertips brush the sweaty bangs from her forehead, wipe the tears from her cheeks and a soft voice promise that things would get better.
She didn't believe it, of course, but it was a nice thought.
Data String 022/B
Despite the nightmare, and the restless sleep thereafter Jordan woke with the hopes that everything had been a dream and that Etain was sleeping soundly beside her. The bright sunlight streaming through unfamiliar windows dashed that hope to the ground the instant she cracked open one eye and saw Mahu sleeping awkwardly in a chair beside the bed.
She blinked the sleep from her eyes and slowly sat up. The sun highlighted the deep reds and browns in the otherwise black hair. One side of the Tiva's face was hidden in shadow while on the other side her high cheekbone and full lips stood out against her dark skin.
"Morning," Mahu said.
Jordan grinned slightly. "Thought you were asleep."
"On this chair?" Mahu groaned. "Impossible."
"Not your fault. I should have gotten up hours ago and moved to the couch." She stood and stretched, sinewy muscles rippling beneath her thin sleep shirt.
Unconsciously Jordan licked her lips before throwing back the sheet and slapping her bare feet to the cool floor. She shivered. "Tell me you have coffee."
Mahu chuckled. "No, but something almost as good."
'Almost as good' turned out to be a very sweet and rich tea that left Jordan's toes tingling. She sighed happily as she pushed the empty mug away and leaned back in the kitchen chair. "Not bad," she said.
One fine, dark eyebrow slid beneath Mahu's bangs. "Told ya so."
Jordan just stuck out her tongue. "So," she drawled. "What's up with this meeting the clan elders want me at?" They'd discussed it at dinner last night but the dark woman had been a little too vague for Jordan's liking.
"I suspect, now that you're here, they can't ignore what's been happening anymore."
"You mean they wrote off five deaths as nothing?" Jordan asked incredulously.
"Pretty much," Mahu confirmed. She paused for a moment, offering to refill Jordan's mug. When she passed on more tea Mahu looked down at the table. "They didn't know much or care about GLOBAL before I came to them. They won't interfere with things, unless they are in direct danger."
"Dont they see that everyone is in danger?"
"I'm the only one that can see, Jordan." She met blue-green eyes now. "I can talk, but it doesn't mean they hear."
Jordan studied her intently for a long moment. She knows. The thought came and went before she could comprehend it fully. There's something she's not telling me. "What is it you're hiding?"
This time both eyebrows slid beneath Mahu's bangs, though she tried to stop them. The damn things might as well be a big stamp on her forehead that said exactly what was on her mind. One of these days she was going to have to do something else - curl her lip, sigh dramatically.... Nah. She shook her head to clear it. "I'm not hiding anything."
"Uh huh, and we all reside in little tubes, covered in slimy stuff and live our lives out in some kind of freaky matrix we all think is real," Jordan replied sarcastically. When Mahu said nothing she blinked furiously. "I was joking!"
"Okay, we don't," Mahu said at last, her eyes lit with a devilish glow.
Jordan growled low in her throat. "Don't tease me like that, woman."
"Sorry. Couldn't help myself. You are just so teaseable," Mahu replied with a smile.
Jordan laughed. "Teaseable isn't even a real word."
Mahu blinked. She laughed. The first real laugh since I met her. "So? Call it poetic licensing."
"Call it what you will. It's still not a word."
Mahu pouted. "Maybe I'm a poet."
"And I'm the pope," Jordan replied. She shifted back in the chair and crossed her legs at the ankles.
"Hey, I could be a poet. I do have many skills, after all."
Jordan laughed again.
Oh yeah, Mahu thought. I like that laugh a lot. "Are you doubting me?"
"Of course not," she said sarcastically. "That would give you cause to kick my ass. And I've had all the ass kicking I can take for a lifetime."
The Tiva watched blue-green eyes, that had been shining moments before, turn dull and glisten with unshed tears. Without hesitation Mahu rose from her chair, slipped around the edge of the table, and knelt before Jordan. As she cleared her throat the blond haired woman looked up.
Jordan tilted her head slightly and regarded Mahu with questioning eyes.
"Things are different now-"
"No," Jordan interrupted the Tiva. "New scenery, same shit."
Mahu shook her head. "Things are different now, Jordan." She paused, and touched Jordan's knee with warm fingers. "You've got me this time."
Have I? Jordan wondered. Have I finally found someone I can trust? Pale blue eyes, with an intensity she'd never seen before, studied her. "I want to believe that...believe you." Painfully she looked away, to the wall on the far side, and said very softly, "But it hurts so much inside."
"I know," Mahu murmured. Gently she pulled the young woman into her arms and held on for a long time.
Data String 023
The clan elders and Mahu and Jordan were gathered in the small meeting hut where they conducted all their clan business. A long wooden table, worn smooth by age and many hands, took up the length of the room. PH Orbs lit up the corners of the room, and tapestries depicted massive silver dragons holding the Earth in their talons.
Jordan wordlessly slid into a high backed, painfully straight chair while Mahu refused to sit and paced from tapestry to tapestry as the elders gathered. When the last finally sat so did she.
She gazed about at the men she'd come to know over the past few years. She had a great deal of respect for them, though at times their knowledge was as limited as their worldviews and their own prejudices.
It had taken them a long time to accept her, and even longer to respect her.
Attalus sat at the head of the table. His skin was weathered from years in the sun, and his gray, grizzly hair and beard matched his aged eyes. Now he scratched his chin as he carefully pondered the words they'd gone over in his hut before meeting here.
"It has been told to us, as by our ancestors, that one day the Earth will no longer be the world we know." He nodded to himself, satisfied as the young woman sat straighter and leaned forward. Mahu's intense eyes had widened. "A stranger will come to you, bringing death. She will be like the sun, fighting the darkness. She will change the world," he finished, reciting the legend that had been passed to him by his father, and his father before him, for centuries.
Mahu's mouth opened in protest, but Attalus raised his hand.
"You do not believe our legends, Mahu. There is no fault in that. But look back on what has happened. Look forward to what will be," he said. Attalus knew of Mahu's powers; the things she was capable of. Even if she herself did not yet know.
"That's all shit," Mahu replied.
The old man shook his head and turned towards the young one. "Tell us how you came to be here, child."
Jordan blinked rapidly, an image of her child coming to mind. This time the tears did not fall. "We were betrayed...by someone we thought was an ally. GLOBAL captured us, and left me here to die." She gave him the condensed version. Anything more would be far too painful.
"Why were you betrayed?" Attalus asked, in his deep, warm voice.
"Money, greed, power...I don't know." Jordan shrugged. She was watching the old man intently and she could see the knowledge radiating behind his aged eyes.
"Who was it that betrayed you, child?"
"A friend," she replied harshly. "Someone we thought we knew and could trust."
"You've fought the darkness," he began. "You will fight-"
Jordan interrupted. "I don't want to fight anymore." She stood abruptly; startling all those seated at the table. "I don't know what I'm fighting for anymore."
"You are fighting for the light," Attalus said calmly.
"My daughter is dead," Jordan cried. "I have no more light."
"No," Jordan repeated. "No more fighting. I won't let anyone else die, because of me." She turned and fled from the room, their heated murmuring dying in her ears as she slammed the door and rushed across the swirling desert sand.
Mahu rose to follow but the elder laid a surprisingly strong hand on her arm. "Let her go," he said gently. "She must have time to think."
"Think about what? The death of all her friends? The death of her child?" Mahu asked harshly. She needed to find Jordan, make sure she was all right. "I promised her she would no longer hurt. That she's safe. Do you want to take that from her?"
Attalus' gray eyes widened slightly. "Of course not, child. The histories say-"
"I don't give a flying fig what the histories say. I made a promise I intend to keep." She looked down at his hand. "Now, let me go."
"Of course." He took a step back as she brushed past and out the door, slamming it angrily behind her.
"That did not go well," Wren stated mildly.
"You think?" Platt asked sarcastically.
"Oh, both of you, hush," Attalus repeated his age-old reprimand. It did no good, as usual, and both Wren and Platt began arguing. Attalus sighed. Mahu, with her pale eyes and hair as dark as night had promised the stranger things she couldn't possibly keep.
When Mahu had shown up on the edge of Tiva land they'd been a small, disorganized and bickering clan. Somehow, with her knowledge of the world, Mahu had transformed them all - into the thriving clan they were today.
She was surrounded by a darkness, that she fought to this day, but, despite her mysteriousness, she'd gained the trust and respect of the Tivas.
Attalus' eyes widened. "The stranger will fight the darkness...."
Wren and Platt looked up, their arguing stopped abruptly.
"What is it, Attalus?" Wren asked, brushing long, graying hair behind his shoulders.
"The darkness is not what we thought," Attalus replied, gazing out the window at Mahu's rapidly retreating form. Darkness seemed to envelop her, even from this distance. Tivas jumped out of her way as she pushed through the village square.
Silence descended in the meeting hut, with the exception of the whirring air unit.
"She will be like the sun, fighting the darkness," the elder quoted again. Two sets of eyes watched him intently, their puzzlement clear on their faces. Attalus shook his head, not fully understanding either. He knew in time they'd understand, but he wasn't sure there was much time left.
Data String 023/B
"Jordan?" Mahu called across the dunes. "Jordan?"
The heavy slap of an angry palm against packed sand gave off Jordan's whereabouts somewhere to the left.
The moon was a pale sliver in the sky and barely lit the Tiva's path across the desert. She stumbled to a halt as she viewed the smaller woman on her knees, staring into the sky. Mahu held a silent breath in her lungs, devastated beyond all reason. This one small woman had fallen into her life and into her arms. How, knowing the future, could she keep promises made in haste? How much longer could she go on without telling Jordan the truth?
Data String 024
ADDITIONAL DISCLAIMER: HERE IS WHERE THAT EXTREME VIOLENCE WARNING COMES INTO EFFECT. PLEASE, PLEASE DO NOT READ ANY FURTHER IF THE MERE THOUGHT OF A VERY VIOLENT DEATH SCENE MAKES YOU QUEASY.
Jordan glanced back over her shoulder in time to see Mahu turn and begin to walk away. "Mahu?" she asked quietly.
The figure stopped, but did not turn.
The blond woman stood slowly and went to stand beside Mahu. The dark woman turned further away as a hand was laid upon her arm.
"I need to-"
They both spoke at the same time and after an awkward silence Jordan smiled sadly. "Go ahead, what is it you want to say?"
"I- it's complicated, Jordan." The Tiva paused and wiped a nervous hand across her sweaty brow. Though it was dark the heat had yet to dissipate. Soon enough the sand would chill, the breeze begin to cool and the temperature drop drastically.
"What's complicated? This whole mess?" Jordan waved her hands wildly, indicating everything around her. "I know that already." She tried to search pale eyes that suddenly swung in her direction. It was too dark.
Mahu gently laid her hands on Jordan's shoulders and tipped her head till their eyes were on the same level. She realized she was stalling, and sighed. One hand absently reached up to smooth Jordan's short, blond hair.
The hacker drew in a sharp breath as a strong hand tangled in her hair then made its way to the ID/IC over her eyebrow. A long, tapered finger traced the hardware around the edge, sending a shiver up Jordan's spine.
"Does this hurt?" Mahu asked softly.
"N-no," Jordan stammered. "It did at first...." Her voice trailed off slowly, questions in her eyes and forming on the tip of her tongue. But, Mahu spoke first.
"This is hard for me to say, Jordan." Abruptly she pulled her hands away and shoved them into the pockets of her Cams. Then the Tiva took a step back and sank into the cooling sand. After a moment Jordan joined her.
"Just say it."
Mahu glanced at the sand as she began to trail her fingers through it. Quietly she said, "When I look at you...." She hesitated. When I look at you I see the world in your eyes. I see your future, our future.... How can I tell you that without scaring you away? How do I tell you the visions of death?
"When you look at me what?" Jordan prompted. When no answer came she put her hand under Mahu's chin and lifted her face till they were eye to eye. She was startled to find tears in the eyes of a woman she thought of as a warrior. "Hey," she said, alarmed. "What's wrong?"
Dark hair swirled around Mahu's shoulders as she shook her head. "Nothing- no. I mean... Oh God." She pulled away from Jordan's gentle touch and jumped to her feet, again.
For the moment Jordan let her go.
The Tiva paced forward and back, her thoughts dark, whirling masses of confusion, anger, sadness and fear. Suddenly she stopped and faced Jordan. "Do you remember when we spoke of visions?"
"Yes." Jordan paused. "Have you had another?"
"No." Mahu clasped her shaking hands tightly together and forged recklessly forward. The truth had to be told, no matter the outcome. "I didn't speak the complete truth when I told you I saw the future."
Jordan's eyes narrowed slightly, but she said nothing.
"I told you that GLOBAL would kill everything you loved-"
"And I said that they already had," Jordan interrupted hoarsely.
"I saw my own death."
The hacker blinked furiously. "What...what are you saying?"
Slowly Mahu advanced and knelt in front of the smaller, blond woman. She was afraid that a touch would send Jordan running away so she could only hold the woman's eyes with the intensity of her own. "I'm saying, that in one possible future, we are together."
"One possible future?" Jordan questioned, still stunned.
"Yes. The future is not set in stone. Its course may be altered. One small action can change destiny completely," Mahu replied.
Mahu sighed, already hearing in that one question fear, anger, and trepidation. "We-"
"No," Jordan said, and stood, backing away from Mahu. "I don't believe in destiny. We make our own choices. Set our own paths. Who we love, what we are...is not pre-determined."
"You're right, we can change it. Like I said, it's not set in stone." Mahu stood and made no attempt to reach the smaller woman. She could see the shock in Jordan's eyes.
"What else have you seen and not told me?" the hacker asked, her voice edged with anger.
"I've told you what I can."
"Oh please," Jordan drawled. "Don't get cryptic on me now."
Mahu's eyes narrowed and her fists clenched, her anger slow to rise. But, her voice was soft, as she asked, "Would it be so bad?"
"Us," the dark haired woman replied.
Jordan laughed and Mahu's heart fell, faster and further then it ever had. You should have expected that. You know what you see is not always as it will be. But you hoped, didn't you? Dumbass, her soul said. You know when you set yourself up you always fall. What were you thinking? "Jor-" she began, stepping hesitantly forward, her anger draining as her heart ached.
The hacker held up one small, tanned hand. Moonlight glanced off her palm, for a split second blinding Mahu. Jordan's words were scattered on the wind as the dark woman fell to her knees and grasped her head tightly in her hands.
Darkness and pain narrowed her vision. A small grain of sand became the focal point as she struggled to rise up out of the vision caused by the flash of light. But Mahu could not.
A small child screamed. Jordan's daughter, Etain. Sparks from a track light intermittently lit the small, sterile room. A body lay beside the child.
Etain was screaming for her momma, tears running down her cheeks. Blood was splattered across the front of her pale yellow shirt. A woman with pale hair and wide, terrified eyes stood across from the child, a laser in hand. She shook, till a hand reached out of the darkness and gently lowered the gun.
A voice, familiar, yet oddly disembodied, echoed throughout the room, even as Etain continued to scream. Jordan stepped out of the shadows and grabbed Etain up into her arms.
"Shh, baby. Momma's here now."
Then they ran.
Tria grabbed the back of Jordan's shirt as they came to an intersection. "This way," Tria said and tugged them to the right, following behind Jordan again as the tunnel narrowed.
A laser beam barely missed Jordan's ear. She ran faster, desperately clinging to Etain. A shot singed through her long, blond hair.
Another shot, and Tria stumbled, falling across Jordan's back. They tumbled to the floor, warm blood washing Jordan's back in a crimson flood.
Etain screamed as she was pinned beneath them.
With a strangled cry Jordan pushed Tria away and turned. Silver eyes flashed in the darkness. A red beam danced across the back of Etain's pale hair....
"No," Jordan screamed, struggling to untangle her legs from Tria's dead body. "No!" She twisted their bodies too late, and the laser shattered the back of Etain's skull.
Jordan's harsh guttural scream stopped the Informers in their tracks. They paused, with lasers raised as Jordan glanced down blindly.
Etain's limp body hung in her arms. Her small, dark blue eyes were with wide with fear. When Jordan looked up the pain and devastation were clear in her eyes.
A wild rage began to burn in her chest. Gently she laid Etain on the ground and surged to her feet as if in slow motion. Before the first Informer could blink, the hacker was hurtling her body across the remaining distance.
Fueled with adrenaline and rage she snapped his neck, grabbed his laser and faced the other Informer. Behind them she heard the footsteps of their reinforcements.
She smiled cruelly, as she pulled the trigger and watched his blood splatter, fragments of blood, bone, and muscle covering her shirt.
A laser shot burned the flesh of her shoulder. She turned and took out two more. Eight Informers went down before sheer numbers overpowered her and took her out.
When Jordan awoke Etain was in her arms and blinding sun in her eyes. Every part of her body hurt, non-more then her heart. She held Etain close, unable to determine where she was or what was happening.
The room around her vibrated, and once her thoughts were collected she realized she was in an air Transport. She felt the air shifting as they hovered somewhere. Then rough hands grabbed her and hauled her and Etain up.
An Informer studied her for a long moment. "Usually we would kill you," he said. "But, you will fare far worse living with the realization that you killed you daughter and all those you called friends."
Jordan looked at him, non-pulsed, shock still running through her now ice cold veins. A door to her left slid open and blinding sun, reflecting off desert sand, made Jordan squint.
She was pushed to the edge of the air Transport. Sand screamed around the door, biting into her bloody flesh, and tearing her eyes. As hands pushed her through the door, she glanced back and smiled coldly.
"This isn't finished," she said.
The Informer smiled. "It is now." He pushed her through the door. The air transport took off as Jordan sailed through the air, twisting her body instinctively and landing on her feet. Her knees gave way and she crumpled to the sand, Etain held tightly in her arms.
Head bowed, pain lancing through her heart and body as the shock slowly faded, Jordan whispered, "As my promise to you, Etain, they will pay for this."
Her body began to shake, tears fell from her eyes and she began to scream.
Mahu gasped, the world returning with dizzying force. She fell forward, Jordan's pain her own. Cold hands hesitantly rubbed her back and Mahu finally looked up into pained, blue green eyes. "Jordan- I- Oh, God, I didn't realize."
"You were screaming," Jordan whispered raggedly. "You saw her death, didn't you?"
The Tiva nodded mutely, as tears streamed down her cheeks.
"I still hear her screaming sometimes." Jordan's shoulders shook as a sob was forced to surface. "I promised Etain they would pay, but I can no longer find the strength to fight."
Mahu slowly straightened and wordlessly held out her arms. Jordan slid into them and laid her cheek against Mahu's strong chest. Mahu's next words vibrated against Jordan's ear as she said, in a deep, ragged voice, "You don't have to fight alone anymore, love. They will pay for Etain's death, and for your pain." Gently she pushed Jordan to arm's length and looked deep into her eyes. "Screw destiny. The moment I saw you I wanted to hold you in my arms. Every day since then I've promised to take away your pain, and let no one hurt you again." Mahu's voice caught in her throat as Jordan's lip quivered and tears flowed freely.
"I can't...I can't let you do this," Jordan managed to reply.
"Do what? Fight for what's right?"
Jordan shook her head. "No, I can't let you love me."
Mahu's eyes widened. "Why not?"
"Because...." Jordan hung her head, unable to meet Mahu's eyes. "Because my heart hurts so much. It's so empty and so cold...that I could never love you in return. Not when I now know it will mean your death."
"Look at me, Jordan," Mahu requested. "Please?"
Hesitantly Jordan looked up. The moonlight cast a pale halo behind the Tiva's dark hair.
"I know you hurt." Jordan's mouth opened in protest, but Mahu laid one gentle finger across her lips. "I felt it in my visions of you...still feel it now. I won't ask you to love me. That's your choice." Mahu paused. "I only ask you to trust me. Let me help you."
"I trust you," Jordan replied immediately.
"Good. Then let me help you."
Jordan tilted her head slightly to the side and regarded the smile that crossed Mahu's lips and the flickering of emotions that raced through pale eyes. It was a long moment before she could respond, and even then she could only speak what she knew. "I care for you greatly, Mahu Tiva. I trust you with my life. And I trust...that you will do everything to keep your promise."
Mahu nodded slightly.
Jordan continued. "And I promise...to do everything in my power to keep you alive. I will not let a pre-determined destiny rule my life. " She placed her hands on either side of Mahu's face and pulled them together, so that their foreheads touched.
You...we will survive, Jordan promised silently. The promise was eerily familiar to the one she had made to Etain that day. She only prayed that this promise would not be broken.
Data String 025
Mahu lay in bed, sheets tangled down around her ankles, Jordan tucked securely against her side. She'd planned to sleep on the couch but, Jordan had clung to her and Mahu could not refuse the silent request.
The Tiva stared at the ceiling, heart hammering wildly in her chest at the nearness and warmth of the beautiful woman beside her. Jordan had draped her arm across Mahu's stomach in her sleep and she absently ran her hand up and down the exposed skin, stopping now and then at small scars.
Wonder how she got this one? Mahu mused, running one finger lightly across a feathered scar on the back of Jordans hand. The blonde woman stirred at the touch and murmured something in her sleep.
"What?" the Tiva murmured.
Jordan mumbled something else. Mahu strained to hear, laying her ear less then an inch from firm, pink lips.
"Take me with you.... Teach me everything you know...."
The whisper of a vision.... A time long ago.
"Even in death, I will never leave you...."
"I love you...."
Mahu twisted away, scrambling to the other side of the bed. Jordan just groaned and rolled over.
The voice was hers, but not. Jordans, but not. Memories long buried begged to resurface, clamoring for attention, yet so fast Mahu felt only intense emotions. Pain. Anger. So much anger. Then a kind of peace, that settled over the layers of anger and hurt. A light.
It was so intense that Mahu lurched from the bed and stumbled to the sink, sure she would vomit.
But the vision - the feelings - retreated and she stood, clutching the counter, in a white knuckled grip.
"Oh God," she breathed. I had a vision of the past. Ive never done that, though Attalus said it was possible. He said that it was an untrained skill, but no one had ever done it before. Even with years and years of teaching and strict mediations.
Jordan had said, I love you. But, Mahu reminded herself, it hadnt really been her. Not like that, not in the past.
Ive seen the future. Us. Together. Why not so in the past? My time at Trinity taught me...many things. Things most civilians never learn.
All Jordan sought. All Mahu saw and knew as the truth. The truth that had killed so many.
The dark haired Tiva now understood. Oh God, she had to tell Jordan.
Data String 025/B
Jordans eyes were wide and wild with fear. "I dont believe you," she whispered hoarsely.
"Its true," Mahu repeated. No matter what she said the young woman didnt seem to believe, or want to believe. "We need to talk to Attalus."
Jordan shook her head. "You talk to him. Im out of here."
"No." Mahu hastily grabbed Jordans hand, but she pulled away. "Wait, please."
Jordan stopped in her retreat from the Tivas home. Her shoulders slumped wearily as she turned to face Mahu. "Why? Because you love me?"
Mahu winced, but didnt respond to that. "Just wait until Ive talked to Attalus. Hell know what to do." Cause I sure as hell dont.
The hacker crossed her arms over her chest and stared at the woman standing in front of her. Last night shed realized something. The pull from this woman, the ache in her own heart...it was undeniable. Prophecy, visions, or not, Mahu would be a part of her future. Strong, calm arms had held her through the night, brushed the hair from her eyes, and tucked the sheet up when it became cool....
Now this. The truth that Etain, Tria, Nero and the others had died for. She couldnt face it. Because it was too ridiculous.
"Will you wait?" Mahu pleaded softly.
She sighed. "Ill wait."
Data String 026
Shes waiting. Oh God, shed better still be waiting. Where the hell are you Attalus?
Mahu paced the front room of Attalus' small living quarters. It was sparesly decorated, in keeping with strict tradition - less is more. One, worn wooden chair faced the curtained window and a small table sat beside it with a PH orb casting odd shadows against the wall.
"Stop pacing, child. You will make the floor dizzy." Attalus popped his graying head around the corner as he spoke in his aged, warbly voice. He smiled at Mahu and told her to sit. She shook her head, but ceased pacing. "What is on your mind, that it brings you here at this hour?"
Mahu looked up and met fading eyes with her own, vibrant ones. "I had a vision," she stated simply.
The old man nodded, and took the lone chair for himself. "Go on."
While Mahu's body had stilled her mind was raging. I'm terrified, she realized. I can't make sense of this anymore. "My first vision showed me the future. My latest...has shown me the past." Attalus' eyes widened but he said nothing, gesturing with a wrinkled hand to continue. Mahu paused, and looked up. "What does it mean?"
"I haven't seen the vision with your eyes, Mahu. You tell me what it means."
Mahu blew out a frustrated breath between clenched teeth. "I asked you, because I don't know!" She began to pace again, till Attalus stood, made his way to stand in front of her and grabbed Mahu's shoulders.
His voice was soft as he spoke, even as his aged hands tightened painfully. "Put aside your fears and anger. Look deep into your heart and find the truth."
"I know the truth!" Mahu yelled, stumbling back from Attalus' hands.
"Do you?" he asked.
"Stop speaking in riddles, old man. Tell me what I need to know."
"There is nothing I can tell you that you don't already know." The old man paused as he returned to the chair. "Jordan seeks the truth as well, does she not?"
Mahu nodded wordlessly.
"Then perhaps you should go with her; find her truth...and yours as well." When Mahu started to protest Attalus held up a hand for silence. "Never before have you asked about the visions. Never before have you sought out knowledge. So, I speak to you now only in warning." Attalus stood to pace, finally stopping before the window. "There are three visions you will see. The Past, The Future and The Moment."
"The Moment?" Mahu interrupted.
Attalus nodded and turned to face her. "A vision in real time. It usually only happens to those with strong bonds. Family, loved ones...." His voice trailed off as he put his hands behind his back and bowed his head.
"Why are you telling me this, now?" she asked, her pale eyes watching his every move.
"I tell you now because you are untrained. You should have been prepared for this. But I let your stubbornness decide for the both of us."
Mahu sputtered something unintelligible but Attalus continued as if he hadn't heard. "When danger comes to those you love and you have a vision of The Moment your first desire will be to go to them. But there will be no time."
"What's the point then?" she asked.
He sighed and stopped pacing to stand in front of the window, again. After a long moment he said softly, "You have the power to be where you will it. If you will it without gain to yourself."
"I don't understand."
"You will, Mahu. You will...."
Data String 026/B
Two days passed as Jordan and Mahu prepared to leave. Jordan had indeed been waiting when a very troubled Mahu had exited Attalus' hut. The Tiva hadn't said a word and Jordan hadn't pushed for an explanation.
A few hours later Mahu had simply said, "Pack. We're leaving."
Jordan didn't have anything to pack She'd waited as Mahu had readied her Hakute and said her goodbyes. Now they were traveling and the hacker had no idea where they were headed. If it was up to her they'd run as fast, and as far, from the reaching arms of GLOBAL as they could get.
But it seemed it was no longer up to her. Once again a pre-determined destiny was set before them. Only this time Mahu was on the journey too.
Time would tell if it would make a difference or not. Mahu had promised to protect Jordan, but the hacker couldn't help feeling as if this had all been done before - and it was ultimately up to her not to fuck things up again.
Data String 027
Jordan refused to ride on the slobbering beast Mahu affectionately called Sin. Its lion's head and horse like body were disconcerting - and Jordan mused - much too tall. Once they make these things closer to the ground I might ride one.
She didn't notice Mahu glancing down often to check on her weary traveling companion.
Data String 027/B
I wish she felt even one tenth of what I feel. Does she feel anything at all, Mahu wondered. She could vividly recall the death of her parents and the numbing pain she'd felt.
How many times has Jordan lost those she loves? How many more times will she have to suffer? Can I keep my promise and protect her?
Data String 027/C
The days of travel were blending and becoming unfocused. They were full of silences, both comfortable and awkward. Sweltering, blistering heat forced them to travel at night and sleep during the day.
They traveled in the moonlight, Mahu's keen senses keeping them on the path toward their secret desitnation - Trinity.
It was the only place she feared she'd be able to show Jordan the truth she'd sought and almost died for. The truth the hacker didn't want to believe.
One day's journey from Trinity - as the sun was just beginning to rise, and the travelers were bedding down for rest - Mahu leaned up on one elbow and watched as Jordan aranged her bedroll.
Jordan was cursing under her breath.
"You know, if you sit on it then spread it out the wind won't send it flying across the desert." A single, dark brow rose up beneath Mahu's hairline as Jordan turned to her with a not so amused look.
"I'm not having trouble with that, thank you. I'm trying to find that one patch of sand that doesn't have a lump in it." She slapped at the blanket and the sand beneath it, arranged her body, cursed some more and got back up to slap the same patch of sand.
"You're nuts. You know that, don't you?" Mahu asked with a chuckle.
"So I've been told," Jordan mumbled.
Suddenly Mahu's face became serious, a line forming between her brows. "Jordan?"
When she was at last satisfied with her patch of sand Jordan looked up. She blinked rapidly. "What's wrong?" She looked worriedly around the small camp site.
"It's time I told you where we're going." Mahu paused, wiping a tapered hand across her sweating brow. "So- so you can decide whether to continue with me, or without me."
"I already know," Jordan said softly. "We're going to Trinity."
"Y-yes, we are." The Tiva sat up and leaned toward Jordan. "How did you know?"
"It's the only logical way to end this." The hacker looked down at her hands resting in her lap. She began to pick at the frayed edges of her Cams. "But, if what you say is true then where does it really end?"
"I don't know."
"Then we go to Trinity, and decide from there."
Mahu nodded silently. They both knew it wouldn't be that simple.
Data String 028
Trinity was simply a structure. It wasn't a city, in the fact that there was no land, no grass, no trees. Three massive buildings towered toward the horizon and invaded the clouds. An obstruction field encased the city - glowing purples and greens making it look like a giant child's toy, or the creation of a sci-fi buff's wildest imagination.
The gleaming metal of the structures were what caused the rainbow plasma effect on the obstruction field. It had something to do with the light bending, refracting, or something like that and becoming trapped within the field.
All in all it was rather impressive, and the effect was beautiful. Till you caught site of the Rovers, Enforcers, Informers and Techs. Packets of data - on air conditions, soil temperatures and everything under the sun - streamed across a DMD. They could be found in big cities as well, showing stocks, weather, etc. It was a medium that displayed text, digital information or graphics [according to programming] along an array usually set on an eight foot platform, with a running track. It would loop through the city, updating at its point of origin and sent out again.
Below it were the city streets, and unlike New Jax, the streets did not team with people, but dark suited Informers and the occasional white, lab coated Tech.
Jordan's hands shook as they hid behind the foundation of a decimated farm house, waiting for the sun to lower. She studied Mahu's tense profile before grabbing one tan hand and holding tight.
Mahu squeezed Jordan's hand gently and gave her a small smile.
"How do we get in?" the hacker asked.
"Part of the Underground runs beneath the city. We'll go in there."
"What do we do once we get in?"
Intense, pale blue eyes searched Jordan's face. "It's up to you. When you find what you need you can decide what to do with it."
Jordan nodded, turned away from Mahu and looked back over the city. What will I do with it? What will I find? I know Mahu wouldn't lie to me, but I've got to see to believe. Damn, do I really want to?
"Let's get some rest first." Mahu's voice interrupted Jordan's musings.
They leaned their backs against the old stone wall. Jordan closed her eyes, and though her thoughts were troubled, she fell into a deep sleep. It wasn't long before her sleeping body unconsiously sought out the warmth she craved and was unable to attain when awake.
Mahu smiled in her sleep and pulled Jordan closer.
Data String 028/B
It was terrifying being back in the Underground after so long. Jordan had never really noticed just how dark, damp and silent it was when she'd lived in it most of her life.
The drip-drip of water falling from the ceiling and landing on the hard, dirt packed floor, was like the sound of parade drums. The air was stale and oppressive, tightening Jordan's chest till she thought she'd suffocate. Mahu's hand wrapped gently around hers was the only thing keeping the young hacker from running back up the stairs and into the light of day.
She noticed how Mahu navigated her way through the tunnels with little more then a glow stick and a pause now and then at an intersection. At each one she'd glance at the wall, nod her head, then turn. Jordan wondered if the walls had somehow been marked for an occasion such as this. She didn't ask; it didn't really seem to matter.
Mahu finally stopped at a thick metal door. "We don't actually have to go to the city. Everything we need is right here."
Her spoken words were ominous. Jordan shivered.
"We can turn back," the Tiva said softly. "We don't have to do this."
"I need to know," Jordan whispered hoarsely. "It's not a question of wanting."
With a nod Mahu pushed open the door. Jordan gasped and fell to her knees. The truth was spread out before her, in all of its horrifying reailty.
"Oh God," she murmured, before slipping into darkness.
Data String 029
Their journey for the truth had led Jordan to face a reality she was unprepared for. What she did with it now, as Mahu had said, was up to her.
She'd decided that the truth would be far more painful then living a lie. But, she was wrong. It ate at her soul and tore her heart into pieces. As they rented a cottage by the beach Jordan wrestled with her demons, sinking further into a darkness she hadn't played with since before Etain was born.
Mahu sensed the darkness and fought not to go there with Jordan. But her heart ached so badly each time she saw the pain in the young woman's eyes that she drew her in, physically and emotionally every chance she had, till it wasn't unusual to find the two of them - silent - on the couch, laying on the bed, sitting on the shore, holding hands...always together.
Jordan fought with her darkness, to form the words she knew in her heart.
I love you, Mahu Tiva. Why can't I say it? Why does my heart beat faster and my chest ache when I wish to say those words? Why do my knees turn to jelly every time you touch me? And why, why do I still pull away?
She knew why.
She watched Mahu walk away, to God knew where.
Watched her walk out of her life, breaking promises. Breaking her heart....
To be continued in Part Six
Return to The Bard's Corner