Disclaimer: The characters of Xena and Gabrielle and others mentioned, belong to MCA/Universal and Renaissance Pictures. No infringement on their rights are intended.

Subtext Disclaimer: No sex, but as usual there is an implied loving relationship between two consenting adult females. If this bothers you, or you’re under age, or you live somewhere where this type of material is illegal, go away.

Timeline: Plan D #14.

Shock Factor: 2. For those who live in a dream world.

Note: First, for those who would rather not have T in a major roll, sorry. Secondly, to those who don’t like being preached to, sorry. Thirdly, for those who think that this world will last forever, sorry. Fourth, to everybody else, I apologize for using this forum to get up on my soapbox and state my personal views, however I don’t make any apologies for my views, just for using this forum to express them. The next story will be back to Grace and Faith and their completely unaverage lives.

Ann, as always, my eternal gratitude for your contribution and I think I scraped my nose sliding under that wire. "Medic!"

Don’t drink and drive. Always wear your seat belt, or wear you’re helmet.

Send comments to asdease1@gte.net



Written by FlyBigD

"You drive safe." Gabrielle said, as she tugged on the collar of the warrior’s leather jacket. "And make sure you take a nap before you try to come home." Giving her a serious stare.

Nodding, Xena smiled. "Okay and I’ll call you before I leave." Swinging her leg over the bombshell, she started to pull her helmet in place, but hesitated when the bard leaned into her. "What?"

"I love you." Almost shouting over the sound of the rumbling engine, she smiled and stole a kiss.

As her smile got bigger, the warrior nodded. "I love you, too and I’ll see you tomorrow night." Doing some thieving of her own, before she let the bard out of her arms and finally pulled the helmet down. Flipping the face shield in place, she leaned the bike to stand up right and waved.

Stepping back, Gabrielle leaned up against the garage door and waved with a smile.
Then she watched the bombshell roll slowly forward and followed it’s progress until it disappeared down the driveway, at which time she gave Xena a final wave. Staying put after the warrior had disappeared, she closed her eyes and followed Xena’s progression with her ears, listening to the familiar rumble get further and further away. When it finally faded into silence, she chuckled and stepped into the garage, away from the door. Pushing the black button on the wall, she tilted her head upward, as her ears were treated to the clunk clunk clunk of the garage door moving downward. Shaking her head, she made a mental note to remind Xena to fix the linkage problem and waited until the last bit of sunlight was squeezed from existence by the rubber strip on the bottom of the door, before she turned to give the four other Harleys a smile. "She really should do something with you girls." She told them. "Stuck here day in, day out. Never being ridden." Sighing, she considered learning to ride, just so she could save them from complete desolation. "I’ll think about it." Nodding with the possibility lingering in her mind, she turned to give the two other Harleys a smile. "What other family has seven Harley-Davidson’s in their line up?" Shaking her head, she thought about her lone truck. "We are not your typical American family." Laughing with that thought, she went to the regular door and stepped out into the morning sun. Closing it behind her, she started for the house, but was stopped by another sound.

Arching an eyebrow, she frowned as she turned her head toward the area behind the house and listened to a rhythmic thumping coming from somewhere in the trees. Intrigued, she changed course and walked slowly toward the sound. As she got closer, she shook her head when it became apparent that the thumping was a musical bass line coming out of the cabin. "I’ve got two gods doing an imitation of a teenage boy." Getting a mental image of T, or Ares riding along in a low rider, listening to rap music so loud it shook the windows of passing cars. Following the trail to the cabin, she almost had to cover her ears when she stepped up onto the porch and walked to the door. It was then she realized knocking would be useless and merely opened the door, hoping she wouldn’t find something she’d see in the back seat of that low rider, going on. Opening the door slowly, she was grateful to find T, fully clothed and apparently doing some house work, as she rubbed a cloth over an end table, while her head and body moved to the music. Laughing, she waved and smiled until she got the god’s attention, then pointed at her ear, then the ground repeatedly.

"Oh." Smiling, T chuckled and lowered the volume until it reached a reasonable level. "Sorry."

Rolling her eyes, Gabrielle closed the door as she stepped inside. "Sixteen tons?" Naming the song that was playing, she gave T an amused stare.

Nodding, the god smiled. "You load sixteen tons and wadda ya get? Another day older and deeper in debt." Singing along with the music, she resumed her cleaning. "Saint Peter don’t you call me ‘cause I can’t goooooo. I owe my soul to the company stoooore." Giving the table one last swipe, she moved to the other end of the couch and began another round of rhythmic house work.

Unable to control her motor functions, the bard rolled her eyes again and strode forward to plop down on the couch, turning her head to laugh at T. "Where’s Ares?"

"Halls of War." Bobbing her head, T smiled as she cleaned. "Apparently he’s got some reoccurring business there that always pops up when it comes time to do the house work."

Hanging her head, Gabrielle shook it slowly. "Why am I not surprised?"

Laughing, T lowered the volume again and joined the bard on the couch, when the dusting was complete. "Ahhh." Plopping down, she propped her feet up on the coffee table.

"Can I ask you a question?" Turning her head to repeat her amused stare.

"Absolutely." Grinning impishly, she tossed the rag by her feet.

"Why don’t you just use your powers to keep the house clean?" Smiling at T’s stupid grin.

"Why?" Folding one arm behind her head, T turned her head, as she settled it against her arm. "It’s not anything I can’t do on my own and I actually enjoy it. Do you have a problem with that?"

Lifting her eyebrows in consideration, Gabrielle finally nodded. "Nope." Chuckling, she slid sideways to lay her head in T’s lap, then stretched her legs out.

Looking down, the god gave the bard an inquiring stare. "Comfy?"

Frowning for a second, she made an animated attempt to fluff T’s well muscled thighs, then craned her neck back and grabbed a pillow. Smiling, she fluffed it, then tucked it under her head. "Yep." Giving the god her version of an impish grin.

Laughing, T laid her head on the back of the couch. "I guess my house work is done then." Snapping her fingers, she completed it and shut off the music. "So the mighty warrior princess is absent." Raising her head to stare down into a guilty expression.

Turning her head, Gabrielle found some interesting art work to look at. Sighing, she nodded. "Yea, she’s pulling a double shift because Manny is on vacation."

"Ahhh." Nodding, the god empathized. "House a little quiet?"

"Don’t know." Turning her head back, the bard gave her a smile. "Never got there."

T rolled her eyes. "What did you do with your quiet time before I moved in back here?"

"Don’t you know?" Feeling her forehead wrinkle, Gabrielle considered the question, then smiled. "Or is that a rhetorical question?"

Now it was time for the god’s forehead to wrinkle. "No, it’s not a rhetorical question." Sounding irritated. "Has Xena been feeding you that spying hoopla again?"

Gabrielle laughed. "Kinda. She’s convinced that you were skulking around all the time."

Hanging her head, T shook it slowly. "I’ve told her a hundred times that I was not spying on you two." Sighing, she closed her eyes. "All I did was constantly monitor your emotions. I did not spy."

"You never looked in on us?" Looking a little pouty, she tucked her arm under her head.

Somehow, her head moved to hang even lower. "Yes, I looked in on you, but I just didn’t do it twenty-four hours a day." Sounding a tad exasperated

"Oh." Speaking softly, Gabrielle nodded. "I see. You were busy."

Throwing her arms in the air, T growled. "Can’t win for losin’ around here, can I?" Shaking her head. "If I did keep tabs, it’s called spying. If I didn’t, it’s because I didn’t care about you guys."

"No." Shaking her head, the bard reached out to grab T’s hand and pull it down. Holding it over her heart, she frowned. "T, I know you care. I was only curious."

Sighing again, she gave the bard a sad look. "I’m sorry, Gabrielle. I know you didn’t mean it that way. I shouldn’t have snapped." Using her free hand, she rubbed her forehead.

"Are you okay?" As her expression changed to one of concern, Gabrielle started to sit up, but was gently held in place by the hand she held.

"I’m fine." Rolling her eyes, the god smiled. "I’m just a bit testy. Must be my age catching up with me."

The bard reciprocated by rolling her eyes at the notion. "Don’t even mention age, please. I’m two thousand, three hundred and fifty-seven, remember?"

"Yes, but at least you get a new body every once in awhile." Tapping her chest, T smiled down at her. "I’ve had this one the whole time."

Conceding, Gabrielle chuckled and held up her hands. "Okay, you win."

Nodding, the god cracked her neck. "This immortality thing isn’t all it’s cracked up to be."

"Oh, really?" Giving her a scrupulous stare. "And what’s wrong with living forever?"

"Well now. Let me see. There is the great fun of watching your friends die." She said, with a touch of sarcasm and sadness combined. "At which time you decide that you shouldn’t get too close, so it won’t be as hard a thing to do the next time and then you get the real thrill of finding out that it never gets easier. Oh, and I can’t forget the pure joy of fending off TPTB from trying to torture you two, by putting you so far apart, that it made the search for Dr. Livingston look like a walk around the block." Tapping her chin, she continued. "And of course, there’s the overwhelming happiness that I get from watching all the other people I care about disappear from the face of the earth, like Latour and Lemet and just bunches and bunches of Ungara that grow old and die, never to return."

"Sorry." Wincing, Gabrielle tugged her bottom lip with her teeth. "I guess immortality isn’t quite what it’s cracked up to be."

"It most certainly is not." Nodding, T sighed. "All my power could never take your place. It helped keep you safe, but that was small compensation for not having you like you are now." Smiling, she brushed Gabrielle’s hair out of her eyes.

"Well, if it’s any consolation, we really missed you." Giving the the gods hand a squeeze, she smiled. "A lot."

"Well, that much I do know." Changing the smile to a smirk, she closed her eyes. "The dead aren’t the only ones that can hear your thoughts."

"I thought you said you didn’t read our minds." Tilting her head, Gabrielle shifted toward the edge of the couch, so she could get a better look a T.

Slapping her forehead, T moved her hand down to cover her eyes. "I said I could hear your thoughts. You were sending them to me, not me picking your brain."

"Ooooohhhhh." The light went on at the bard’s house and she nodded in response. "I get it. You heard us when we were thinking about you."

"Precisely." Dropping her hand, she smiled. "And I must say that some of the thoughts that came my way were not of the most encouraging sort." Pointing with her eyes and her finger. "You and that warrior of yours were not always so nice, if you know what I mean."

Letting go of T’s hand Gabrielle again found the wall very interesting. "Is that so?" Feigning innocence.

"Yes, that’s so." Poking the bard’s chest. "As a matter of fact, I remember a particular time when the only good thing you had to say about me, was the fact that you found my higher body temperature useful on some of those winter nights, out on the road.

"Hehehe." Grimacing, she chewed the inside of her lip. "Well, ya know. There were a few times that I was hoping you’d show up, ya know." Moving her eyes only, the bard took a sidelong peek at her friend.

"Hmmmm." Unimpressed with the explanation, T folded her arms across her chest and continued to stare down at the side of Gabrielle’s head. "And did you think that I’d completely abandoned you?"

"Ugh, noooooo." Sounding a trifle bit like Aphrodite, Gabrielle shook her head. "I wouldn’t have wasted the time to yell at you, if I thought you weren’t listening."

Arching one eyebrow, she considered the answer. "I guess there’s some logic in there somewhere." Not entirely convinced, she let the matter go. "Well, anyway, just to let you know, I was there when you two were in a bind and though I didn’t make an appearance, I never let you guys get into too much trouble." Glancing up at the ceiling, she smiled. "Well, maybe a little bit of trouble, but not way too much. Nothing that you couldn’t handle."

"Aha!" Pointing an accusatory finger. "I knew I recognized your handiwork now and again. I tried to convince Xena, but she was so wrapped up in being pissed off, she never could see it."

T chuckled and looked back down. "She does pissed as well as I do subtle."

"Well, should I remind you just how well you do pissed?" Coming right back at her, Gabrielle did the finger pointing.

"I don’t get pissed. I merely become excessively protective." Clearing her throat, she sat up straight to look down her nose at the bard. "Thank you, very much."

"You chopped Draco into so many pieces, we never found them all." Lowering the finger, Gabrielle folded her arms across her chest to give T a smug smile. "Now explain how that falls into excessively protective, cause it sounds like you were pretty pissed to me?"

"He is an exception to the rule." Following suit, T folded her arms across her chest. "He fell under ‘U nu ru, U kara’ and had to be disposed of."

"That's you hurt her, you die. Not you hurt her, you end up looking like you were put into a Cuisinart." Retaining her superior attitude.

Closing her eyes, she growled low. "He needed an attitude adjustment."

"We found thirty-eight pieces." Gabrielle came back. "And that was only his upper torso."

The growling increased. "I needed to eliminate him as a driving force behind the army."

"You got pissed when he hurt Xena and you cut him into little pieces." Using her best tutorial teacherly tone. "Just admit it. He pissed you off."

"All right!" Opening her eyes, T held her arms out. "He made me mad. I killed him to protect Xena and then took my anger out on his headless body."

"Thank you." Satisfied with the victory, Gabrielle smiled.

"Geez!" Rolling her eyes, the god sighed. "The one time I lose my temper and nobody ever forgets." Lowering her arms, she laid her head on the back of the couch and sighed again.

Putting on a little sad face, she patted T’s arm. "That’s okay, you were still human at the time. You were allowed to be emotional." A bit of condescension in her voice.

Lifting her head, T arched an eyebrow over golden tiger eyes.

"And it was perfectly justifiable." Smiling, Gabrielle’s eyes got big. "I would have done the same thing."

Sneering, the god let a menacing growl roll out of the deep part of her throat, then she held up her hands and wiggled her fingers. "Do you know what happens to little bards that antagonize people with claws?"

"They get sent home unharmed?" She hoped.

Shaking her head, T smiled smugly. "They get tickled."

Hearing the ‘T’ word, Gabrielle immediately tried to escape her fate, but was grabbed by strong hands and held in place as dexterous fingers plied their excruciating trade, at which time she started laughing. "Stopstopstop." Curling into a ball, she slapped at those tickling fingers.

"Hehehehehe." Letting out an evil chuckle, the god continued to tickle the bard unmercifully. "Make fun of me, huh? We’ll see about that."

"I’m sorry. I’m sorry." Getting the words out in between gasps, she could feel tears rolling out of the corners of her eyes. "UNCLE!"

"Irrelevant." Ignoring the plea, T continued until Gabrielle’s face was beet red, then she simply sat back with a satisfied look on her face, as the bard rolled off the couch.

Trying to catch her breath, Gabrielle reached up, placing her hand on a jeans covered knee and lifted her head up to lap level. Wiping the tears from her face, she chuckled. "Did I ever mention just how much I missed you?"

"Not in the last five minutes, no." Chuckling as well, the god leaned over and gave the bard a hand getting back on the couch.

Resuming her place, the bard held her aching sides. Closing her eyes, her chest heaved as her lungs took long deep breaths. "Can I ask you something?" Laying her arms at her sides, she opened her eyes and looked up at T’s normal dark brown ones staring at her.

"Absolutely." Smiling, T picked up a magazine off the end table to her left and began fanning Gabrielle’s overheated face.

Closing her eyes, Gabrielle enjoyed the cool breeze on her face. "Are you happy here?"

"Pardon?" Giving her a perplexed stare, the god paused in her fanning.

"I mean, are you happy living here." She amended and opened her eyes. "With Xena and me?"

Frowning, T started fanning again. "Of course I am. Why wouldn’t I be?"

Shrugging, Gabrielle smiled. "Well, we were just wondering if you were having a good time, or if you were here out of some sense of duty."

The fanning stopped again and T’s eyes flickered to red, then back to dark brown.

Wincing, the bard held up her hands, waving them frantically. "Whoa, whoa. That’s not what I meant." She said quickly.

"Then, pray tell, what did you mean?" Her face deadly serious, the god put the magazine down.

"Xena and I were only wondering if you were happy living here. We know that it’s not the most entertaining of places and that there isn’t a lot for you to do and we wanted to make sure that you didn’t want to live someplace else, and were staying here because we wanted you to." Spilling the words out, Gabrielle hoped she got it right this time.

T took a deep breath and let it out slowly. "Gabrielle, you and Xena are my best friends and that is something that I am very thankful for and if you think that I’d be happier someplace else, you’ve obviously missed the complete concept of what having best friends means." Easing up on her harshness, she closed her eyes and lowered her voice to a whisper. "I didn’t move here because I was looking for excitement. I’ve had quite enough of that to last me for eternity. I don’t expect you and Xena to keep me entertained and I don’t expect you to feel obligated to make sure that I’m happy." Opening her eyes, the god took another deep breath. "I’m not here out of a sense of guilt or duty. And the fact that there isn’t a lot to do is fine with me, because I’ve got a global empire to run and I still keep track of your descendants, making sure they are safe; so, though it may appear that I’m sitting back here, idly passing the time, I’m not. While you and the warrior are at work, so am I and I even find time, in my busy day to squeeze in Ares once in awhile; so don’t let yourself get wrinkles worrying about whether or not I’m bored. You and Xena are my world, but that world also includes other things that you don’t see, because I put them aside when you’re around."

"Oh." Gabrielle said softly, as she studied her hands. "I guess an apology would be appropriate, wouldn’t it?"

"No." Shaking her head, T let out a long sigh. "There’s no reason for you to apologize. I shouldn’t have spouted off, yet again." Leaning down, she kissed the bard’s forehead. "Your heart was in the right place. I should’ve looked paid closer attention to what you were feeling, before I went off." Smiling, she sighed again. "I’m sorry."

Shaking her head, the bard sighed. "Me, too." Looking up at eyes looking down at her, she saw a hint of something behind the dark brown. "Are you really okay? You look tired."

"Well, if it were possible for a god to be tired, I suppose I would be." Lifting one side of her mouth into a crooked smile. "I do have a lot of work to do, ya know. The Ungaran conference is only a short time away and there’s the usual business that keeps me on my toes."

"Like what?" Cocking her head, Gabrielle felt the bard thing sneaking around the edge of her consciousness.

"Gabrielle, you don’t have to worry. I’m not bored." Patting the bard’s arm, she shook her head. "Trust me."

Sitting up, she folded her legs underneath her and propped her chin on her fist. "No. I really want to know. I am heir to the Ungaran throne and although the likelihood of Xena and me ever inheriting it is slim to none, I’d still like to know."

"You reallllllly want to know?" T asked in a warning tone, of be careful what you wish for kind of way.

"Yes." Nodding, Gabrielle smiled. "I think I’ve been pretty lax in my duties as heir and I’d like to be brought up to date, if you don’t mind." Tapping a strong shoulder.

Giving her a sidelong glance, the god shook her head and sighed. "Well, don’t say I didn’t warn you." Smiling, she took the bard’s hand and stood, bringing Gabrielle with her. "Come on."

Following behind T, Gabrielle was led through the cabin to the back, where a door leading outside stood closed. Thinking she was going outside, the bard was immediately shocked to see a dimly lit room when the door was opened. Frowning, she stepped to the doorway to investigate the space, then looked back to the familiar cabin. "Huh." Doing this several times, she finally did the inevitable and scratched her head.

Smiling, the god tapped her on the shoulder. "Don’t burn up the gears." Chuckling at Gabrielle’s perplexed expression. "This door is a portal." Using her finger, she outlined the frame. "Under normal circumstances, this door leads outside, but on the occasion, I use it as a quick way to get to here." Pointing inside the room. "That way, I can keep tabs on both places without having to strain myself." Chuckling again, T stepped aside, as the bard stuck her head through the door.

"What is this place?" Moving further inside, the bard discovered that the dim lighting was for the people sitting at computer terminals. "Who are they?"

"Ungara." She said smiling. "These are the people that help me run the empire."

"They’re sitting at computers." Bemused, Gabrielle arched an eyebrow at T.

"We may be an ancient race, Gabrielle, but we’re not out of touch." Giving her a wink, the god moved them inside, walking close to the wall. Circling the room slowly, T began to point out what was going on. "These terminals connect all the clans in a network. What you’re seeing is the hub of the empire." Pointing to a group of terminals to the right, she smiled. "Those people handle the daily transactions of inter clan relations. They send emails with announcements and are responsible for reporting any significant events to Chris."

"Who’s Chris?" Tugging on T’s sleeve.

Letting her smile get real big, T pointed to a young man on the other side of the room. "He’s the new Latour."

"The New Historian?" Getting excited, Gabrielle tugged harder on the poor helpless sleeve. "Oh, oh, oh. Can I meet him?"

Rolling her eyes, she pried the clinging hands off her clothing, then waved at Chris to come over. "I should’ve saved him for last." Mumbling to herself, T shook her head.

Smiling, the bard took in the figure approaching her. "He doesn’t look like Latour," she noted, looking at the tall blonde man and compared him to her memory of what the other Historian looked like. "Latour was tall, but nobody in his family had blonde hair."

"Gabrielle, there were a lot more people in his gene pool besides Latour ." Shaking her head, T held out her hand to Chris. "Chris, I’d like to introduce you to the infamous Bard of Potidea, Queen of the Amazons, yada yada yada. This is Gabrielle."

Laughing, Chris shook T’s hand and looked at the short blonde. "Gabrielle." Bowing slightly, he let go of the god’s hand and extended his to the bard. "It’s a great honor."

Still glaring at T for the yada’s, she sighed then turned to the Historian. "It’s a pleasure." Smiling, she felt the strength of his grip. "Did you get that grip from writing all the time?" Giving his hand a squeeze.

Shaking his head, he smiled. "Basketball."

Gabrielle closed her eyes and hung her head. "Ungaran’s playing basketball."

Chris exchanged a look with T, who shrugged. "Just go with it. She’s stuck in the past."

"Oh, yes. Speaking of the past." Nodding, he put his hands on his hips. "You’re the one that I’m supposed to be yelling at for writing those scrolls." Trying to hold a serious face, he lost it when the bard’s eyes met his.

Clenching her jaw, she turned to glare at T. "Did you tell everybody about that?"

"Nope." Smiling. "Just him. He is in charge of the Archives, remember."

Turning back to the Historian, Gabrielle sighed. "I’m never gonna live that down." Leaning into Chris and away from T, she smiled at him and spoke in a whisper. "Is there any way I could get those back?"

"I’m not suicidal." He informed her with a chuckle.

"Rats, a conspiracy." Snapping her fingers, the bard stepped back to lean against the wall with T.

T turned to give her a smug smile. "Don’t you just hate loyalty." She said sarcastically.

"No body’s talking to you." Ignoring her friend, Gabrielle smiled at Chris. "Soooooo, how do you like your job?"

"I like it." Chris admitted. "It’s quite challenging. I’m not even one tenth through all the records in the Archive."

"Are you starting from the beginning, or just skipping around?" Folding her arms across her chest, the bard lifted a finger to make a point. "I remember when I started reading, I tried skipping around and got so confused, Latour finally made me leave him alone and start from the dawn of time." Chuckling with the memory.

"I heard that story." Smiling, he shook his head. "And I used that information to learn my lesson before I began, so I started from the very beginning."

"Smart boy." T added with a smile of pride.

Looking over his shoulder, Chris heard his name called and waved to the person standing at their terminal. "Be right there." He told them, then turned back to the two women. "If you’ll excuse me, duty calls." Smiling, he bowed to each then left with a smile.

"I like him." Gabrielle smiled after him, then turned to see the smile on T’s face. "Is he as good as Latour?"

"He’s learning, but as far as having the instinct for it?" T teetered her hand. "Latour was one in an eternity, so I don’t expect him to match his intensity, but he’s eager."

"Missing the infamous Latour flare for storing data, huh?" Nodding, she smiled. "I never met anybody with a memory like his." Sighing, she lamented the loss of her friend.

"Well, you may not have had his photographic memory, Gabrielle, but you definitely matched his intensity when it came to acquiring knowledge." She informed the blonde with a grin. "You two were insatiable."

"We liked to read." She said simply and smiled.

"You consumed books like they were grapes." T amended, getting a small blush from the bard.

"Okay, maybe I was a little intense when it came to learning." Unfolding her arms, Gabrielle pointed to the other people in the room, as her need to change the subject was combined with the intensity to learn more. "What about the rest of these people. What do they do?"

Shaking her head, the god smiled, knowing full well what the bard was up to, but complied with the change. Pointing to one group of terminals that Chris had gone back to, she waved when they looked up. "Those are the dailies, like I told you. They keep track of births, deaths, and any major events like weddings and that sort of thing."

Staring at the back of the terminals, Gabrielle tilted her head as she listened, then reached over to T, placing her hand on the god’s forearm, then using the other to point. "Those computers don’t have wires."

Smiling, T nodded. "They’re run off of T power. They don’t need electricity, or inter connectivity."

"Ohhhhhhhh." Chuckling, the bard smiled.

"But we do have a back-up system that does, just in case anything ever happens to me," she added and pointed to a small group of terminals tucked into a small alcove, on the other side of the room. "Those are regular computer terminals and those people have the unfortunate job of constantly updating the redundant system with current information."

"Wow." Was all Gabrielle go out.

Nodding, the god continued with the tour. "Those are the financial terminals. They keep track of all the monies of the empire and delegate funding and such. They are responsible for providing the necessary money for college tuitions, special projects and basically anything that isn’t included in the routine of daily life. They also balance the books and track all our investments."

Blinking at the very notion, the bard merely nodded.

Smiling, T moved her hand to point at another group of terminals. "That’s the research and development team. They keep track of all the latest inventions and innovations, to analyze their uses and possible damage factor."

"Damage factor?" Frowning, Gabrielle gave T a curious stare.

"Mmmm." Nodding, the god pointed to the largest set of terminals in the room. "That’s the special project center. They use the damage factor to gauge how mankind's latest and greatest inventions will impact the world as a whole."

"You lost me." Lifting her brow, she wrinkled her forehead.

"Follow me." T said quietly, as she turned to follow along the wall, until the reached a raised platform. Taking the steps upward, she moved to a chair that sat in front of a long row of terminals. Holding the other chair for the bard, she smiled. "As you know, the world isn’t in the greatest of condition." Pointing to one monitor, she traced her finger over the different colored lines that meandered across it. "These lines represent the factors that go into assessing potential damage."

Staring at the screen, Gabrielle saw T pull out a keyboard and begin typing. "I take it, that this is your spot?" Looking up, she saw that the platform gave her a complete view of everything in the room.

"Good guess." Nodding, with a smile, she pulled up a different screen on the monitor. "Here, look." Tapping the monitor to get the bard’s attention. "This is the damage analysis for plastic."

"Plastic?" Arching an eyebrow, the bard looked at the screen. "What kind of damage can plastic do?" Running her eyes over the monitor, Gabrielle read the different reports, that had been written before the knowledge of the invention of plastic had ever gone public. In those reports, she discovered what the full meaning of damage factor was, as every angle was covered, from biodegradability, to how it would impact the construction of new housing. As she read on, she was slowly becoming aware of the ramifications of the invention, following the mutations of the initial invention through to modern times.

T sat back and watched the bard read, knowing what effect the knowledge would have on her friend. Gabrielle, she thought, was one of the few people who could see past the goody, goody candy coating that was shown by the people who would profit from the invention to get to the heart of the matter.

Several hours later, Gabrielle finally looked up from the monitor, her face grave. "What can we do about this?"

Slowly a smile crept onto the god’s face. And, she thought, she’s one of the few people in the world who would actually want to do something about it. "We’re all ready taking steps to reduce the negative impact." Leaning back in her chair, T sighed. "The Ungara have moved from protecting mankind from evil, to protecting them from themselves. Most of the major manufacturers of the product have R&D departments and most of those are at least 25% Ungaran. That’s why we have a financial department. Those college tuitions go to educating the Ungara in thousands of different fields, so they can get jobs with the people who take ideas and bill them as progress, just so they can stuff their pockets." Sighing, she shook her head. "Plastic is only one example of that type of mentality. It’s benefits are great, but it’s ramifications are just as substantial. Only recently, has the world become more conscious of it’s surroundings and though strides are being made in ways to make plastics more environmentally friendly, the effort is useless unless people listen."

"You mean about recycling." Nodding, Gabrielle sat back.

"Not just recycling." Shaking her head, T closed her eyes. "Plastic isn’t the problem." Opening her eyes, she sat forward. "People are the problem." Resting her arms on the console, she sighed. "We’ve become a society built the need for convenience, with the mentality that anything new is better, when it’s not necessarily the case."

"Do you think we should still be living like we did two thousand years ago?" Tilting her head, she moved closer to her friend.

"No." Turning her head, she gave the bard a smile. "I’m not against progress. It’s quite useful when handled correctly, but unfortunately that doesn’t happen very often."

"What do you mean?" Swiveling the chair, Gabrielle turned to rest one elbow on the console, so she could get a good look at T.

"Think about how the world has changed, Gabrielle." Turning as well, T copied the bard’s position. "And I’m not talking about all the changes in our surroundings. I’m talking about the mental state of the population. How many people do you know, who actually care about where their trash goes?"

Thinking about it, the bard lowered her eyes, realizing that she herself was guilty. "Nobody."

"I’m not blaming you." Leaning forward, she tapped the bard’s knee.

"But I’m just as guilty as everybody else." Looking up, she sighed. "I’m part of the problem."

"Maybe, but you’ve got a good heart and you’re willing to change." Sitting back again, T smiled. "You’re one of the few people on this planet who will go out of their way, to make a difference. Most people won’t, for the simple reason that doing so is inconvenient. That’s the problem I’m talking about." Losing the smile, she glanced out at the room. "The need for convenience is killing this planet and the people who can see it are labeled as environmental fanatics." Shaking her head, she rested her chin on her fist. "We’ve lost so much."

"Can’t you use your powers to make things right?" Her tone held was half hopeful, half sad.

"Gabrielle, you’ve had children." Smiling, she gave the bard a sidelong glance. "Which would you rather have? A child that does whatever they want and leaves you to clean up the mess, or one who realizes that there are consequences for their actions and will learn from their mistakes?"

"Okay, I get the point." Sighing, Gabrielle nodded. "We’re spoiled. We’re a miserable excuse for a race."

"I never said that." Shaking her head, T chuckled. "The human race is quite remarkable and should be proud of the accomplishment’s they’ve made. What I’m saying is that, although they have made great strides in the betterment of their own kind, they have failed to realize that their gift of imagination and creativity comes with a price. Just like the Ancient gods, the human race was given this planet to live on and to protect. It’s the last bit that they’ve missed their kazip on."

"You’re talking about the animals." Nodding, she was saddened at the thought of how many species had been lost over the centuries.

"Not just the animals, Gabrielle." Shaking her head. "I’m talking about everything. The animals, the plants, the oceans, the air. Everything. Mortal man has used his abilities to conquer this planet in every facet and in doing so, he’s taken more than he’s given." Sweeping her arm, indicating the room in general, T looked out at the people manning the terminals. "The Ungara, unlike most people, benefit from centuries of wisdom passed down to them and are using that knowledge to try and hold off the effects of mankind's indulgences, but they’re fighting a losing battle. Let me use the rain forest for an example." Looking back to the bard, her tone got more harsh. "Most people realize that it’s a bad thing to cut down the rain forest, but they don’t realize what they are really losing. It’s not just the animals that live there, that will lose. The rain forests provide over fifty percent of the oxygen you breathe. I can live without air. Can you?" She asked in a sarcastic manner and saw the stunned expression on Gabrielle’s face. Taking a deep breath, she let out a long sigh. "I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to get up on my soapbox."

"No, no. Don’t be sorry." Gabrielle said softly. "I know how much you care about what you do. I guess I was a little stunned at the amount of passion you put into it, that’s all." Smiling, she chuckled. "I don’t know why I was stunned. You certainly were always passionate about protecting me and I should’ve known you’d be that way about the whole world."

T rolled her eyes and let out a chuckle. "I have been known to go overboard, on the occasion." She admitted with a wry smile.

"Hey, I’m not complaining." Holding her hands defensively. "Your passion is something I’m very grateful for and I’m sure Ares is too." Flicking her eyebrows and smiling smugly.

"Oh, just stop." Rolling her eyes again, she gave the bard’s chair a gentle shove with her foot.

Laughing, she caught the edge of the console and used her hands to roll back. Settling in front of the row of monitors, Gabrielle moved her eyes back and forth, scanning the console. "Now. Show me how to run this thing."

"Pardon?" Giving her an arched eyebrow, T shook her head.

"Show me what you do up here." Glancing at her friend, she smiled. "I wanna learn, so I can become part of the solution."

"Gabrielle." She said softly. "I know you want to help, but there are other ways to do that. This may not be the best way."

"Why?" Frowning, Gabrielle pouted a tad.

"This job takes up a lot of my time, which is fine because can use my powers to do all the other things that I need to get done." Trying not to sound condescending, she winced. "I’m not exactly sure you’re up for the challenge of running a global empire."

Looking completely offended, the bard put her hands on her hips. "Are you saying that I’m stupid?"

"Gabrielle." Almost growling, T felt her irritation meter jump a couple of notches. Closing her eyes, she turned away from the bard to lower her head into her hands. Resting her elbows on the console, she stared blindly downward, taking several long deep breaths. Fighting the irrational emotion, she opened her eyes, after a couple of minutes and shook her head. Without looking, the god pointed to the monitor in front of the bard. "Watch the screen." Pulling out the keyboard, she began typing.

Taken aback at her friend’s behavior, Gabrielle had stayed silent, not knowing what she’d done to set T off and now turned slowly to watch the monitor. As she did, the screen showed a scene of an African elephant being shot by poachers, then it’s tusks were removed with a chain saw. Starting to say something, her words were cut off by the next image, which showed hundreds of emaciated children. The image changed again and the bard became almost mesmerized by the sadness of the clips she saw. Bulldozers knocked down trees in the rain forest, whole communities were erased by floods, factories dumped pollutants into rivers and oceans. Shaking her head, she felt her heart breaking as she watched.

"This isn’t a game, Gabrielle." T said softly, as she watched the bard. "And it’s not a hobby. This job, for lack of a better word, is a twenty-four hour, seven days a week position and the only reason that I’m able to leave this room at all, is because of my powers." Moving her eyes to watch the screen, she sighed. "The earth is dying, Gabrielle, bit by bit. Day by day, we lose something else that we don’t think we need and until we start treating this planet like it’s our own backyard, Mother Earth’s fate is sealed, along with mankind’s." Taking a deep breath, she closed her eyes. Somewhere along the line and I don’t know where, we’ve become a people transfixed on the notion that making life easier, is somehow connected with making it better." Opening her eyes, she shook her head. "When in fact, the opposite is true. The only thing progress had accomplished is making life more complicated."

Looking up from the screen, Gabrielle turned to T. "Do you think we need to go back to living the way we did two thousand years ago?"

"No." Smiling sadly, T put her hand on the bard’s shoulder. "What I think is that spending billions of dollars on trying to find a cure for baldness is an abomination, in the face of all those children who die from starvation everyday. This world will never be a peaceful one, because it’s not in our nature to join hands and sing ‘what the world needs now.’ However, our inability to see what’s right in front of our eyes, is something that I have a hard time with. We don’t need to go back to eking out a desolate living, we need to wake up and see that the life we’re enjoying, is taking it’s toll. Convenience has become the buzz word for our society and in doing so, it’s caused us to become numb to the idea that any extra effort is worthwhile. Until some way is found to make saving this planet profitable, or as easy as popping the top on a soda can, there aren’t very many people who’ll take the time to care."

"I care." She said softly.

Sitting back, T leaned her head back to stare at the ceiling, as the lump in her throat almost choked her. "I know you do and I know you want to help, but running this console isn’t the way." Taking a deep breath, she raised her head to smile at the forelorned bard. "If you really want to help, what you need to do is help educate the public to the problem." Turning her head, she stood to look out over the room. "That’s what most of our effort goes into. We fund countless educational organizations that cover the problems facing the world today, along with providing solutions to the problems." Chuckling, she turned to the bard. "That’s one of the good things about mankind and his need for convenience. He’s more than willing to write a check to clear his conscience, as long as you don’t want him to actually do anything."

Standing beside the god, Gabrielle wrapped her arms around one of T’s. Laying her head on a strong shoulder, she looked out at the people huddled in front of computer terminals. "I guess there’s still a greater good that needs defending, huh?"

"Mmmm." Nodding, T smiled, then kissed the top of the bard’s head. "Except this time, we’re not fighting evil. We’re fighting ignorance and complacency." Putting a finger under Gabrielle’s chin, she lifted green eyes to meet hers. "Come on. Let’s leave them to their work and to find something to get you started on." Giving her friend a smile and a wink

Smiling, Gabrielle nodded. "I’d like that."

Taking the bard’s hand, T led her down the steps of the platform and was almost back to the portal, when somebody called her. Sighing, she turned to give Gabrielle a brief smile. "Can you excuse me?"

"Sure, I’ll just wander around, if that’s okay?" Smiling back.

"Be my guest. This shouldn’t take long." Nodding at the room in general, the god gave her another wink then left to take care of whatever was needed.

Clasping her hands behind her back, Gabrielle began to stroll around the room, looking at the monitors. As she went, she saw the monumental amount of information that was being processed. "Good night." Whispering, she stood behind one man, watching the screen changing constantly.

"Impressive, huh?" Chris asked, as he walked up.

"That’s an understatement." Nodding, she pointed to the monitor. "What is all that?"

"This is the station where the current status of endangered species is updated. Here, we keep track of the exact population of several thousand animals, which gets transferred to a database to be analyzed for prospective funding." Leaning down, he whispered to the man at the station, who immediately got up. "Grab a chair."

Looking around quickly, Gabrielle found a spare chair and pulled it over to where the historian sat. "How do you keep the count up to date?" Watching the screen, she heard his fingers clicking away.

"The Nibahtu does that with her powers, but we also have people in the field that transfer counts to us on a regular basis." Pulling up a particular screen, he pointed to Southeast Asia. "In that area alone, we’ve got over five thousand field personnel." Typing again, he pulled up a more detailed map, that showed different colored zones. "This is the original amount of natural habitat that tigers claimed." Moving the mouse, he clicked on a side bar and smaller sections appeared over the much larger ones. "That’s what’s left."

"I knew that they were endangered, but I didn’t know they didn’t have any place to live." Grimacing, the bard sighed.

"So far, seven subspecies have become extinct." Moving the mouse again, he pulled up the data on the animals. "They were all driven to extinction by either hunting, or loss of habitat."

"Can’t they be moved someplace?" Turning to look at him, she saw Chris shake his head. "Why?"

"There’s no place to put them." Moving his fingers swiftly over the keyboard, he pulled up a screen that showed a world map. "You see the red areas?"

Nodding, Gabrielle stared at the spots that covered most of the globe.

"Those are the areas that are over 20% populated by man. Anything greater than 15% is considered unsafe for both man and tiger." Leaning back, he shook his head. "Plus there are nutritional considerations. These tigers aren’t like Bud, they need a lot of space to hunt. The average Siberian tiger maintains a hunting territory of approximately a thousand to fifteen hundred square miles. That’s per tiger and unfortunately, they don’t transfer well to he hotter regions, where there is that amount of space available. So, as a result of lack of habitat and consistent food sources, the population goes down, as does the gene pool."

"How much longer do they have?" Chewing the inside of her lip, the bard closed her eyes.

"If the current trend persists, they’ve only got around twenty years, before the lack of a diversified gene pool leads to inbreeding and causes irreparable damage to the species." Shaking his head again, Chris sighed. "After that, I would guess that in another five to ten years, the only place where Siberian tigers will live is in zoo’s."

Opening her eyes, Gabrielle studied her lap. "Can they be saved?"

"We’re trying, but the best way to keep the population from dwindling is to increase, or at least maintain the current amount of habitat." Clicking a few keys, he pulled up another screen. "This is a projected growth potential for the area now occupied by tigers. Most of the areas are still unpopulated due to the fact that they are remote, but as each generation adds to the need for space, the tiger’s chances go down. It’s that way with every species on the planet. Competition for space goes to the one who can adapt. Unfortunately, almost all animals are territorial and can’t change. Man, on the other hand, is the most versatile animal on the planet. Sadly though, he doesn’t use that versatility to adapt to his surroundings and inevitably changes the landscape to suit his preferences."

"We are a miserable race." Leaning back in her chair, the bard shook her head.

"Not entirely." T said as she moved to stand behind Gabrielle. "Like Chris said, we are the most versatile animal and we also have one thing that most of the other species lack."

"What’s that." Craning her head back, Gabrielle spun her chair around to look up at T.

"Pride." Folding her arms across her chest, she looked down at the bard. "It’s the one thing that truly separates mankind from every other animal on the planet."

"How does that keep us from being a miserable species?" Giving the god an intrigued stare.

"With pride, comes guilt." Smiling, T flicked her eyebrows. "And guilt, my friend is a very powerful emotion. People don’t like it and will do almost anything to get rid of it."

"You lost me." Standing, Gabrielle pushed the chair back where she got it from.

Smiling, Chris nodded to T and gave his chair back to the man who had given it up. Then he left do go back to work.

Nodding back, T turned to follow the bard and complete her explanation. "We use guilt like a tool, to help tug at people’s heartstrings, which in turn makes them more receptive to the plight of the world around them."

Frowning, the bard put her hands on her hips. "Please tell me you don’t do infomercials."

Laughing, the god shook her head. "Oh, give me some credit." Rolling her eyes, T took Gabrielle’s arm and again headed for the portal. "We don’t annoy people into changing, we educate them and guilt gets our foot in the door."

"Show them a cute tiger cub and while they’re cooing and petting it, you give them the spiel and say that this is probably the last one you’ll ever see. Is that about right?" Knowing that the person at her side was very sly, when she wanted to be.

"Precisely." Nodding, she smiled. "It is a tried and true method that does no harm and when done correctly, can inspire true compassion." Stepping through the portal, she waited for the bard to follow then closed the door. "The easiest way to bring people’s awareness level up, is to show them what they’re losing."

"Hold on." Taking the door knob in her hand, Gabrielle opened it and looked into the back yard. "Damn."

"What?" Looking out the door, T glanced at the bard. "You wanna go back?"

"No, I was wondering where it was?" Closing the door, she arched an eyebrow to indicate her need for information.

"It’s located by Ungara. The volcano, not the Ancient god." Smirking, she turned and headed for the living room.

"Huh. Interesting choice." Shrugging, Gabrielle followed T into the living room and watched as the god found her laptop. "Soooo." Moving to sit beside her friend, on the couch, she stared at the screen as the computer booted up. "Can you show me where I can help?" Turning to smile.

Smiling back, T nodded. "Gabrielle, it would be my pleasure to do just that."


The End.

Epilogue: Every little bit helps.

Thanks for reading.



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