[PART 1]

by Richard B.Kloosterboer

Disclaimer: This piece of fiction is Uber and original.

Any and all other characters are invented by the author. The prime characters are roughly based on the television characters of XWP, but are developed and more pronounced in modern times. Each character is very much an individual rendering on their own merits.

Violence: Good for a laugh
Seduction: Wouldn't you like to know…
Subtext: Hard to say.

Emotions: A lot of emotional content.

* * *

Cheap cigarette smoke wafted through the air-conditioned waiting room. The state-of-the-art wood grain desk was too tall for the five-foot-four interviewee to lean on comfortably. Her appointment was on time. Her interviewer was late. She twitched her nostrils imperceptibly at the pungent odor of a cigarette. Narrowing her eyes she concentrated on the suit reading a newspaper.

He was comfortably reclined on the leather lounge chair with one foot dangling over his other leg. She tensed a little as she approached him and pulled back the top of the newspaper to look in his dark, brooding eyes. His handsome features were teasingly clean-cut and his strong, broad shoulders made her pulse quicken. His thumb and forefinger clutched the stump of the offensive smelling cigarette as he selfishly took another long draft. The paper burnt a circle of crimson as it quickly receded its ashened contents. The young woman caught her breath when he inhaled and exhaled as the smoke escaped through his slightly parted lips.

"Do you mind?" Finding a hidden courage through her voice. "Some of us prefer not to inhale second-hand smoke. It's unhealthy."

He looked at her with a glint of amusement that escaped his dark eyes.

"This is the waiting room of a tobacco company." He stated matter-of-fact. "And it happens to be my company."

"It is not." She shot back quickly. Then turned to face the secretary who nodded in the affirmative. Embarrassed, she blushed at her blunder and wanted to apologize, but kept quiet instead.

"It is." He continued nonchalantly. "And not everyone smokes here. The air-conditioning is of an excellent quality." He put out the stub of his cigarette in the ashtray, folded up his newspaper and swiftly stood up. "Let me show you around." He proffered his arm gentlemanly and she accepted a little too eagerly, mesmerized by his suave charm.

"Miss Annabel Kingsley. Of Kingsley County, educated at Kingsley College." He recited her resume from memory. "I knew your late father Senator Kingsley only by reputation."

"I hope I won't put you through too much trouble." She persuaded sweetly, hiding the discomfort of the subject.

"Ha!…Not at all. Knowing you own forty-five percent of the shares in this tobacco company, it has always fascinated me that none of your family are or ever were smokers yourselves."

Annabel only let a small smile escape. 'Not all change can be fought from the outside.' She thought.

"I feel like a nervous employee starting a job for the first time." She confided.

"It isn't often that one inherits such a large company if you haven't been groomed for big business." Kartekeya patronized.

"My own business works very well." She snapped back. "Although this particular company I could well do without."

"That can be arranged." The Chairman paused before the boardroom.

Annabel looked at him seriously. 'Was that a threat?' She thought.

"You are not getting my shares." She ordered sternly.

He studied her emerald eyes for a moment longer and then steered the subject to a new direction.

"Did your brother ever give you any details of how this particular company works?" He asked guiding her into the meeting room.

She didn't answer straight-away, avoiding his gaze and fighting back a well of tears. Annabel looked through the dome glass window over the city and the harbor. Moving closer to the window sill she saw cars maneuvering through the busy city streets. Occasionally a siren could be heard and an emergency vehicle sped past. Across the road stood an old relic of the St.Patrick's,` church. Its history shrouded with wars and glory. It survived many clashes with various religious and political factions. Heavily restored, the millennia old relic was still in use by its current patrons. Its Masonic heritage hid its true ethnicity. She studied the people below that looked like ants, oblivious of those that pulled the strings in big business in the high-rise office blocks.

"Dave never talked much about his work in this company." Annabel replied huskily and stared north over the harbor to the distant, hazy islands beyond the horizon.

"Many of the changes, at least health wise, are in place largely due to your brother. His disappearance remains an unfortunate loss for the company."

Annabel shot him a dark look. "Chairman Kartekeya, I am sure this company will survive. Regardless of who pulls the strings." Kartekeya nodded apparently amused by the woman's defensive outbursts.
"By the way," she continued. "Would you know anyone that would have a grudge against my brother?" She asked. "I have run out of options as you are my only hope for any clues about his disappearance."
He looked into her eyes. "I will do everything in my power to find out who is behind you're bereavement." Kartekeya promised.

She clasped his hands. "Thank you." She said quietly.

"How about lunch? I know this little Greek restaurant on the outskirts of town."

"I'd be delighted. But first I'd like to freshen up a little." Annabel left the room.

* * *

As soon as the door closed, another opened swiftly. "You didn't have to lie to her, Kart." The six-foot raven-haired creature stepped smoothly into the room. Her one-piece suit barely hiding her well-toned body.

"I don't see why it's any of your business." He said gruffly. "You work for me."

He felt his temperature rise as he looked deep into her defiant eyes. She remained stoic, her arms loosely by her sides and ready for action.

Any kind of action.

He loved her fire, her anticipation, her style, her grace. Everything brought out a want that he needed to be satisfied.

Yet she wasn't interested in any kind of relationship with him. She made it clear that their relationship was purely business. And although Kartekeya tried hard to quell his obsession she would let her eyes tease him to make that first move.

"She's hiding something. Let me take care of her now."

"Not yet, Torufa. I must be certain that she knows nothing." He shot back with a bit too much strain in his voice. He rolled the stub of his cigarette nervously between his thumb and forefinger before taking another long draft and crushed the remainder in an over full ashtray.

"What has my Chief of Security to report?" Kartekeya took out a silver box out of his vest pocket and opened it with a soft click.

"That reporter was nosing around the premises again." Torufa reported. "Why do you keep her around?"

A low chuckling betrayed the Chairman's mood. "Sue Ramsford amuses me." He said.

Torufa simply looked away, perfectly in harmony with her surroundings, she seemed to be listening to unheard sounds. She didn't budge when the door opened suddenly.

Annabel Kingsley stepped through and locked eyes momentarily with Torufa. Recognition was swift
and painful.

"You!" Annabel lashed out angrily with one hand aiming to slap Torufa's stoic face. Anticipating the attack, the latter easily blocked it holding her opponents wrist and smirked at the young woman's grimace. Annabel twisted her wrist simply out of the painful grasp and with a surprising momentum slapped Torufa's face without further resistance. Shock and anger erupted on Torufa's face as she clenched her teeth and a long blade appeared in her hand. Suddenly afraid Annabel stepped back in fear as her dark opponent came murderously close. The sharp weapon never made it to its mark as Chairman Kartekeya stopped Torufa's arm.

Torufa grimaced angrily at Kartekeya, but she obeyed his silent command with a snarl of her own as she sheathed her illegal weapon in a hidden fold.

"Next time, little one." Torufa let one of her black gloved fingers trace Annabel's jaw line seductively. The dark-clad female recognized the defiance in her victim's eyes coupled with a tinge of fear. Hate was there, as well as something mysteriously familiar.

"I knew your father intimately. He told me everything about you." Torufa taunted.

Annabel remained silent as her only defense.

"Torufa! Leave us. Attend to your duties." An imperceptible nod and the raven-haired woman used the general door to leave the room. An audible gasp of surprise and recognition was heard from the secretary as Torufa left.

"I promised you lunch, Ms Kingsley?" Chairman Kartekeya suddenly was by her side. All fear subsided, but she remained on her guard. She didn't quite trust him.

"Yes you did." She snapped a little too forcefully. "Why was that woman here?"

"Shihan Torufa? She's merely an employee." He replied undeterred by her arrogance. "She sometimes solves a few problems for me."

"I hate her."

"I noticed." Kartekeya chuckled. "The question is why. You have met her before?" He asked rhetorically.
"She was employed by my father as a chauffeur." Annabel remembered vaguely.

"Interesting." Kartekeya concluded.

"She might have been with father before he died. Not that I had much contact with any of my family. After all, I had my own life before all this." She gestured around the office.

Entering the elevator Kartekeya remarked. "It seems to me you knew Torufa more intimately then you let on."

Annabel tensed. She had never felt the rush of overwhelming feeling she had with anyone else before at the mere suggestion made by the Chairman. She knew this woman from somewhere. Was she on a photo with father?

A memory of her father's study came to her mind. She and Dave were packing up father's belongings. A framed picture lay face-down on his oak-grain desk. She had picked it up the frame and remembered a feeling of curiosity. The glass was shattered, yet the eyes staring out at her bore deeply into her soul. She had shown Dave the picture. He recognized her as father's new confidante.

Annabel remembered being angry and jealous upon hearing this information. She had long been estranged from her father. They just didn't seem to get along and this made it so much harder to accept. Dave was groomed for the business while she was largely ignored. Without father's support Annabel started her own career. And she was successful despite him. But she never once got the approval she desired from her father. Now he was gone and she wondered at that time if this raven-haired woman had something to do with it.

The elevator jolted slightly level with the ground floor and Annabel snapped her thoughts back to the present. A limousine was waiting patiently for the corporate pair at the entrance of the building. A doorman opened the door of a limousine politely. "Your limousine awaits, Ms Kingsley."

Chairman Kartekeya let Ms Kingsley step in first. A small smile creased his lips as he recognized a steel-blue gaze mirrored in the reflection of the car's side mirror. A twinkle in her eyes displayed the amusement of the situation. Kartekeya stepped inside the limousine with confidence.

"Driver. Mount Olympus restaurant." He ordered.

The limousine roared into action as they sped off to their new destination.

Going too fast for the speed limit, the car sped down alleys, crossed the main streets and disregarded all other traffic users barely avoiding collisions.

Finding the seat belt, Annabel strapped herself in tight and felt her motion sickness overwhelming her. Remembering an old fable her grandmother told her once, she rubs her wrist with a finger to counter-act the nausea. Her appetite increased which was a side-effect against her cure, yet it also gave her a surge of courage to try new things. "Is your driver trying to kill us?" She yelled over the din.

"She's trying to beat rush-hour traffic. Time is money. And I've got plenty of both." Kartekeya replied mysteriously.

"Sounds ominous." She said sarcastically.

Kartekeya just laughed. A swift right turn and the driver swerved past an oncoming truck.
Undeterred Kartekeya asked. "Your brother Dave and I were discussing details of a merger for our companies. But he disappeared before we could finalize the contract. Maybe I could renew the negotiations with you."

"I'm not going to sell to you."

"Pity, there are other ways." He brooded and locked eyes momentarily with the steel-blue gaze of the chauffeur who nodded solemnly.

The car stopped abruptly next to a restaurant under a motor-way overpass.

"What a quaint building. It looks like a Greek temple." She admired. "I've never seen this here before."
"Oh, just a little something that comes and goes. They serve great Shish-Kebab."

Kartekeya led Annabel to the entrance of the building. A waiter helped her settle in a chair and Kartekeya deftly joined her at the table. They ordered their food and beverage. Which was in turn served swiftly.

"It looks like a temple. What is this place?" Annabel asked.

"It's a combination of the Chamber of War and the Lair of the Love-Goddess."
Kartekeya introduced.

"I resent that, Kart!" A strikingly beautiful, attractive woman with long blonde curls strode up to Chairman Kartekeya, scantily dressed in a pink bikini and flower topped sandals. A see-through fluffy shawl complimented her figure. Kartekeya turned crimson with a flush of anger and embarrassment when he heard his name used in public.

"Are you blushing, little brother?" She asked and sat on his lap. "Let your big sister kiss it better."

Annabel giggled as she witnessed the events unfold. She knew the woman from somewhere.
She held out her hand. "Hi, I'm Annabel Kingsley."

"Yes you are." The blonde beauty said seductively. "And you look even more beautiful than before…"
"Dotty, not now." Kartekeya looked sternly at his sister.

"Whatever." She got up and sauntered over to Annabel. "Come by later, girlfriend. There's a lot for us to catch up on."

"Sure… I think." Annabel looked confused. The woman had a striking resemblance to someone she knew.
"My sister has that effect on people."

"I'm sorry. What?" Annabel excused confused.

"Dotty, my sister, has met a lot of people over the years… and influenced them too." Kartekeya replied.

"She seems like a nice person." Annabel smiled.

Kartekeya looked a bit concerned. "That she is. She's one of the nicest people you'll ever meet." He paused. "Anyway, enough about my family. Let's talk some more about the late Senator Kingsley's only daughter."

"Let's not." Her smile gone and she took another sip of her wine and slipped once more into the thoughts of the past. She got up and said. "Excuse me… girls room."

"Of course." He stood up courteously.

Annabel went into the ladies room overwhelmed with bad memories she'd rather forget. She dabbed some water on her face and suddenly recognized the hated Torufa in the reflection of the mirror. Anger overwhelmed her sadness. "What do you want." She turned and faced her taller
"Annabel, we need to talk." Torufa's voice sounded hushed and civilized. In fact she no longer seemed to be as threatening as she was in the office.

"What is there to talk about? I have nothing to say to you." Annabel retorted bitterly.

"Look, I'm sorry I attacked you back at the office, but I'm an undercover agent for the authorities. I needed to keep up the pretense of rivalry." Torufa started.

"My father loved you and you betrayed him. It killed him that you left." Annabel seethed. "and now you work for 'him'!" She pointed to the door with the restaurant hidden behind.

"Your father was murdered and I am here to find out who killed him." Torufa confessed. "You were never there. Dave knew about my affiliation because he found out a dangerous secret. But now he's vanished too."

"What are you talking about?" Annabel looked confused at Torufa. "The police report said nothing about murder. I don't believe you." Annabel attacked verbally.

Torufa talked gently to Annabel. Lightly touching her elbows, Torufa felt the tension of the young woman who lost so much emotionally. "It may be hard for you to believe right now, but I am here to protect you. Your father hired me to protect both you and Dave. You are not making it very easy for me."
"Don't touch me." Annabel threw up her arms to defend herself needlessly and took a few paces back. "You work for the Chairman of my company. For all I know you are here to persuade me to sell my shares to him." She paused in her rage. "Maybe I should sell. Then he is free to do what he likes with it."

Annabel quickly composed herself and stormed out the door into the restaurant.

* * *

Torufa stared at the spot where moments before she had her argument with Annabel. A small flash appeared behind her and nimble fingers suddenly caressed her shoulders. "She ain't worth all the heartache, girlfriend. Not in this lifetime anyway." Dotty advised solemnly.

"There is so much pain and anger inside her." She flushed hotly as she tried to hide her feelings from her friend. "She doesn't have to sort this big mess out by herself."

"That's good advise. Can I use that in my therapy class?" Dotty asked. Then she sighed. "No matter how many lifetimes you two go through, you are still the same people to me."

Torufa remained silent for a moment, then glowered at Dotty. "If I knew what these regression classes of yours could do to people, I would never have come."

"I recognized both of you, girlfriend. And I tell you, you haven't changed a bit." Dotty laughed, then continued. "Annabel on the other hand is a lot feistier than I remember. This relationship of you two is certainly something else."

"Just remember what I told you. She must never know." Torufa insisted.

"Trust me… my lips are sealed." Dotty giggled. "Relax girlfriend. Have fun."

"I can't just yet. It is too dangerous." Torufa grimaced as they both exited the ladies room.

* * *

Chairman Kartekeya noticed Annabel was still upset. "What's wrong, Ms Kingsley?"

"I'm… I'm not well. I want to go home." She said.

After paying the tab, Kartekeya escorted Annabel to the waiting limousine. She didn't even notice Torufa holding the door open for her, nor the concern for her well-being the raven-haired woman tried to suppress. The ride back to town was much more civilized as they arrived at the Kingsley life-style block in plenty of time.

"Thank you for lunch, Chairman."

"Maybe we could have dinner sometime?" Kartekeya asked hopefully.

"I'll think about it." Annabel walked carefully towards the front door of the building, faltering a bit, obviously unwell.

"Torufa, see to it that Ms Kingsley arrives in her apartment safe and sound." The Chairman ordered gruffly.
The twinkle in the woman's eye did not go unnoticed as she helped to support Annabel up to the door and beyond. Once inside and out of visual range of the limousine, the young Ms Kingsley felt miraculously better. "Torufa, I've been thinking. Do you have any idea what happened to my brother Dave?"
Torufa froze. She didn't want to answer this direct question.

"You do know. Where is he?" Annabel insisted.

"I can't compromise this mission." Torufa mumbled.

"So my brother is alive." A glimmer of hope shone in her eyes.

"It's too dangerous for you to know. Other forces are at work here." The elevator beeped and the doors slid open. Annabel and Torufa stepped swiftly inside. The former used a swipe-card and pressed the penthouse elevator button.

"I don't care about the danger." Annabel said bravely.

"You should." Torufa warned mysteriously. "Kartekeya wants full rights to the company. Why? We don't know."

The doors swished open and they entered a luxurious apartment. Annabel stared openmouthed at Dotty lounging sexually on her lounge suite.

"It's so wonderful to see you two together again." Dotty dropped the bomb. Annabel's
eyes betrayed a sudden burst of outrage. "how did you get in my apartment?"

"Oh that's easy. Just think of your place, snap my fingers and voila… here I am." Dotty answered playfully. "Lighten up Annabel. You're too young for high blood pressure."

Snarling angrily Annabel retreated into her bedchamber and slammed the door shut.
Dotty looked innocently at Torufa. "What did I say?"

"Apparently too much." Torufa replied gloomily.

* * *

Torufa shifted uneasily as she concentrated on the reclining form of Dotty. She had put too much trust in the sister of Chairman Kartekeya. Yet Torufa did have a fondness for her that she couldn't explain away.

"Why are you here, Dotty?" Torufa asked.

"Just thought I'd tell Annabel the truth." Dotty replied innocently.

Torufa shook her head in denial. "That is not a good idea. She's not prepared to listen right now."

"But you know who you are… were… whatever. Don't you think Annabel should know too?"

"No!" Torufa said sternly.

"What about her brother Dave?" Dotty continued.

"What about him?"

"He knows who he is… was… well, ya know?"

"Dave Kingsley used the same regression technique when we trained Martial Arts at the academy. What we learned about ourselves was in the purest form of our minds and an incredible experience. But Annabel has not learned this particular art yet." She locked her mesmerizing gaze on Dotty. "She must not know. Ever. She is not ready."

"Whatever girlfriend." Dotty cocked her head. "You might want to head downstairs. My little brother is getting impatient."

Torufa turned to leave. "Don't worry, Torufa. I'll look after her." She beamed with an awesome smile. "I know just the thing to cheer her up."

The elevator doors closed on a suddenly worried under-cover agent as the machine moved down.

* * *

Kartekeya rolled another cigarette as he waited for Torufa to come back. He couldn't comprehend why the tobacco was addictive. He knew he could give up at any time. He just didn't want to. He needed something to do, something to keep him occupied. Kartekeya missed the old days where he could manipulate an idiot warlord with greed and glory. Male, female… it did not matter. Anyone who was willing to learn a millennia of strategies could be promised the world to conquer.
One such creature showed much promise. How he missed her. Such trivialities lasted only a short while. She remained mortal and always loved the other. He lit his cigarette as he tried to understand women. He looked at his watch and decided he had waited long enough. The Chairman got out of the car and walked inside the building. He pressed the elevator button commanding it to come down.

A bell announced its arrival as the doors slid open and Torufa stood on its platform.

"Kart? Are you smoking again? You'll get cancer." Torufa warned

"I'm a god, Torufa. Or have you forgotten so soon? I can not die." Kartekeya teased.

"No Kart. I have not forgotten."

Kartekeya took another long draft. "Good. We're going to relocate away from this country. We've drawn too much attention here."

"I'll make the proper security arrangements."

"You do that." Kartekeya smiled as he watched Shihan Torufa stealthily leave the premises.

* * *

The bed was soft and warm as her consciousness returned and someone whispered her name.
She stirred and murmured questioningly.

"Anna, wake up."

Her emerald eyes flew open. Her blurred vision focused on a familiar silhouette sitting on her bed.
Recognition overwhelmed her.

"Dave, you're alive!" Annabel Kingsley hugged her brother. Then she separated the hug and looked furious at him. "I thought you were dead… that that monster killed you."

"Torufa was hired by father to protect us, Anna… and she did."

"A strange way to protect someone." Annabel calmed down, but was still visibly annoyed.

"If only I hadn't stumbled onto that top secret development program." Dave excused himself.
Annabel laughed. "You always were clumsily lucky to find stuff. Did you find out anything else?" she asked.
"Yes. The Chairman is a real life Greek God. I couldn't believe it. Then he tried to kill me. He hired this Ninja to do his dirty work for him. But she turned out to be the same woman that father hired to protect us. Go figure." Dave rambled.

Annabel brightened suddenly. "She told me she worked for the authorities. What have you been up to before you vanished?"

Dave thought a moment before answering. "It all started when I was sent overseas by Chairman Kartekeya to oversee a genetically engineered tobacco plant in Puerto Rico. The test results showed that this product was less harmful, yet twice as addictive than the normal stuff."

"Did they do field tests?" Annabel asked concerned.

Dave nodded. "They distributed thousands of packets to public areas and schools. Kids as young as eight years old were addicted to the smoking habit."

"Who authorized this?" But Annabel knew the answer before Dave had the courage built up to answer.
"Who else? Chairman Kartekeya." He answered soberly. "But I stopped the production and destroyed the plants. Except I ran into a little snag."

"What happened?" She asked concerned.

"The people formed a lynch mob. I barricaded myself within the factory. It was like a revolution out there. The people went berserk. If it wasn't for…" Dave held back the name of his savior. "I wouldn't be here today if it wasn't for her."

"The GE crop is destroyed. So there is no problem anymore." Annabel conceded.

"I'm afraid there is. Not all of the crop was destroyed. Puerto Rico wasn't the only place they grew this stuff. By the way," he paused.

"Second-hand smokers get addicted too."

"This is getting serious. All the factories have to be shut down. Now!" Annabel stood up and moved to the door, but Dave stopped her.

"I can't let you do it, Anna." They locked eyes in understanding. "At least not alone."

"You've risked your life once to stop it." She said.

"And I'll risk it again. If we're going to shut all of it down then we have to go head-to-head with Chairman Kartekeya."

"That's going to be tough enough. Let's go."

Exiting the bedroom they were confronted with Dotty once more. "I can't let you go unprotected, Annabel."
"I remember you from somewhere." Annabel looked confused. "But that's impossible."

Dotty flashed a smile. "No, it isn't impossible. Improbable maybe." She suddenly looked down annoyed. "Oh, it's so unfair that I can't tell you. It would make your task so much easier."

"Tell me what?"

"That you are…"

"Stop!" Dave interrupted and guided Dotty quickly out of earshot. "She doesn't need to know. Anna hasn't had time to adjust."

"You're wrong, you know. She's accepted who I am." Dotty admonished. "Well, almost."

"Yeah, I was wondering about that."

Annoyed, Annabel approached the whispering pair. "I don't like it when people try to keep things from me. What are you whispering about?"

Dave took his sister's hands in his own. "You will know when the time is right. But at the moment
we have a different task to perform."

"All right. But when this is all over I want you to tell me. Deal?" Annabel bet.

"Deal." As Dave crossed his fingers behind his back.

"I hope you kids will survive. I really do." Dotty said somberly as the two siblings entered the elevator to meet up with their destiny.

* * *

Dave and Annabel Kingsley arrived at the strange Greek temple structure which doubled as a restaurant. For some unknown reason they knew that the place attracted some unseen power that demanded immediate attention. A soul-full wailing reached their ears and a sudden fear gripped them.

"I don't want to go in there again." She turned to go and was suddenly stopped by the black-clad raven-haired woman. "Torufa!" She seethed angrily. Her steel-blue gaze penetrated deeply into Annabel's soul. Blinking, the latter broke the mesmerizing link. She turned to look at her brother Dave.
But found something else laughing at her plight. A creature so menacing she felt she had stepped into a nightmare. Dave was nowhere to be seen. Instead Ares' brooding eyes bored deep within her entire being.

"Time for you to die, Ms Kingsley." Ares sent forth a fireball in Annabel's direction.

She froze and felt the air singeing her lungs from the heated fireball. A moment later Annabel saw a familiar face staring into her emerald eyes.

Angrily she pushed Torufa off her body. "What the hell! Get off me." She pushed and kicked, then tried to get up. A hand like a vice pulled her back down behind a stack of crates. "Get down, Annabel. Do you have a death wish?"

Suddenly things became a lot clearer for Annabel. "You saved my life. Why?"

"I already told you why." Torufa confessed. She sneaked a quick peek from their hiding place. Ares was no-where in sight.

"We know that he is none other than the Greek God-of-War Ares." Annabel offered.

Torufa nodded solemnly. "If it wasn't for my many skills…"

"We'd be dead." Annabel thought a bit. "Maybe we can get to the car and print a story in the paper. It will put this company out of business. I for one don't mind losing it."

"Getting to the car is going to be a problem. I can distract him while you make a run for the car." Torufa offered.

Putting a cautious hand on her forearm Annabel said huskily. "I won't leave Dave. We need to save him."
Torufa allowed herself to smile in understanding, avoiding her mesmerizing gaze. "I will get Dave." She quickly moved off. Annabel hoped she would hear a signal or see a sign.

"Come out, come out, where-ever you are." Ares bellowed. In the distance.

Torufa answered. "I'm right here, pagan-god."

Several explosions were heard and Annabel saw that Torufa was avoiding every ethereal missile thrown at her with impossible acrobatic flips and somersaults. She decided to make a run for it and sprinted towards the car.

Just as sudden Annabel was tackled to the ground. Someone jabbed her and she felt herself go limp. 'Trust me.' Whispered a voice near her ear harshly. Face down and unable to move her mind raced as
her world began to slowly cloud over into darkness.

"Are you sure she's dead?" She heard Ares question someone.

"If she's not…" Tears stung Annabel's eyes at the betrayal. "…she soon will be!"

Annabel heard Torufa and Ares laugh as she slipped into an angry oblivion.

* * *

The camera with telescopic lens was held securely in place by a pair of manicured hands. Fortunately no one noticed that the woman was taking pictures of something that was to remain secret. Sue Ramford always suspected that there was more going on with the Ninja woman and the Chairman of the tobacco company. Now she had the proof to get the DA after this guy and shut down his scam.

She watched tensely as the raven-haired woman put the limp body of the girl in the back seat of the limousine. As the car drove off the reporter made a hasty decision and followed stretched car with her cheap rental. She followed them into a parking garage and was amazed as the long vehicle narrowly missed both the inside and outside walls as it drove over the spiraling ramp. The brake lights lighted up and Sue slammed on the brakes. The stretch mobile blocked the ramp and the reporter got out of her car to cautiously investigate. Sue opened the door of the limousine and looked inside. A sixth sense alerted her to danger and she pulled back in time to see Torufa next to her. Before she could defend herself Sue found herself pinned against the wall, her arms in a vice-like grip.

"Why are you following me, Miss Ramsford?" Torufa hissed rhetorically.

A yell from a security guard made Torufa look up surprised. Sue narrowly brushed her elbow past her captor's face.

"I don't have time to play with you." Torufa gave Sue a quick jab to the thigh. The security guard was talking on his remote-radio for reinforcements. Ignoring the guard, Torufa took out the limp body of Annabel Kingsley. She moved the body into the reporter's car.

"Hey, you can't take my car…" Sue protested as the car's transmission crunched in reverse. Torufa smirked evilly at her as she drove the car spiraling down the car park ramp in reverse. She reached the level and swung the car around on its axis. Before Sue reached the level, she saw her car speed off to the exit ramp with spinning tires.

* * *

The room Annabel woke up in was as mysterious as how she arrived in it. The windows were pasty colored with grime and pollution and the salty breeze betrayed the building's location near the seaside. The room was sparsely furnished with the bed she woke up in, an overturned table and a couple of wooden chairs.

She got up and tried the metal door. It was no surprise to find it locked. She wondered how she got here. Vague images of betrayal reminded her of Torufa's deceit. Yet she was alive, when she should've died? It just doesn't make any sense.

Annabel went up to the barred dirty windows hoping to find out where she was. Using the sleeve of her flannel shirt she managed to clear a bit off the greasy window. She noted various warehouses nearby and figured that she was in one of the office units on ground level.

'If it weren't for these bars.' She thought of escape and noticed a broom handle lying on the floor in a forgotten corner of the room. A smile creased her pretty face as she rolled the broom handle onto her toe. With a swift upward move she caught her makeshift staff with ease. Twirling the handle like a professional she performed a few simple warm-up katas. Apart from a slight curve the handle was fairly well balanced. Annabel decided her first move and knocked on the door to get someone's attention.

"Hey! Is anybody there.?" She banged and shouted.

A screeching of a chair was heard as someone grumbled something incoherent on the other side. She heard a jingle of keys and as the door unlocked she got ready with her surprise.

"Yeah… what do you want?" The guard was large in size and towered over Annabel. A Glöck was secured in his shoulder holster and he made no attempt to get it.

Annabel stood in a defensive stance and the man chuckled as the little woman seemed aggressive. She taunted him a couple of times with the sharp end of the stick and as he made an attempt to grapple her handle away from her, she let the other end sweep up under his chin. A quick turn and she snapped the stick against his ribs. The guard grimaced and reached for his gun. Annabel disarmed him with one fell swoop. The gun clattered inside the room.

Standing comfortably in a back stance, Annabel held the staff loosely with both hands, letting the make shift staff lean against her shoulder.

The guard moved, and Annabel gave him a series of hits, before knocking him flat on his back with a simple foot sweep.

"Bravo! Well done, Ms Kingsley." Torufa clapped as she entered the room and stepped casually over the stunned guard. "You've just overwhelmed a Federal Agent. That's a capital offence."

Annabel flushed crimson and then exploded. "You kidnapped me, I oughtta…" Annabel saw her world spinning as Torufa grabbed hold of her staff and twisted it simply up ninety degrees. Annabel tried to sit up, but her broom stick pushed her back down - hard.

"Now listen here and listen good. I stuck my neck out for you to keep you out of harms way. But you keep on barging in like this and we can't bust the creep for anything." Torufa said angrily.

"I'm going to let you up now. Will you at least be civilized?"

Annabel nodded solemnly.

Torufa proffered her hand to help Annabel up. She took it too eagerly and before Torufa knew what happened Annabel had the guard's Glöck aimed at Torufa's temple.

The raven-haired agent let out a gasp of surprise. "You are getting in way too deep."

"Shut up!" Annabel said furiously. "I just want to get my brother and get the hell out of this hole. You can find another guinea-pig for your trouble. I'm out of here."

"You're wrong, Annabel." Torufa accused calmly. "Put the gun down. I know you are under a lot of stress and grief. We'll get through this. Just you and me. Trust me!"

"Trust you?" Annabel laughed. "I remember the last time I trusted you. I nearly got killed by a madman."

Torufa looked deadly serious at Annabel. "He's not a man. He's a god. Nothing will stop him except humility."

"Where's Dave?" Annabel pressed the gun harder in Torufa's ribs.

"He's safe." Torufa felt her aggressor relax a little. She had to disarm her quickly before more harm was done. "I can bring you to him if you just put the gun down."

"All right." Annabel agreed and lowered the gun.

The guard had come to and seized Annabel from behind, pinning her arms. Annabel dropped the gun as the guard lifted her up. Torufa was impressed with the power in those legs as the little woman placed her feet on Torufa's midriff and pushed off hard. The guard lost his footing and fell backward on the hard concrete floor. Free of his bear hug Annabel rolled back over him and picked up her make-shift staff before she stood up in the ready position with a viscous smirk and ready for battle.

Torufa stayed calmly in the doorway. "Dave." She said over her shoulder. Dave Kingsley leaned into the doorway. "Anna, What are you fighting for? We're amongst friends here."

Annabel looked questioningly at Dave. Something wasn't quite right. The accent. His complexion.

"What's wrong with your face. It almost looks like a…"

Torufa finished the sentence. "…mask. Yes. There's something else you weren't supposed to know."

Tears welled up when Annabel feared the answer that was about to come.

"Dave is dead."

* * *

Chairman Kartekeya admired the view of the harbor from his office building. In the evening the city lights were like little stars on a low horizon. A groan to his left alerted him that his guest had awoken. His guest amused him. This soul challenged him in every lifetime he had. His guest had an infallible luck of finding trouble and, when his friends were nearby, he would survive those encounters every time.

He mused a little about his plans of domination. The one drug that was legal would be the end of humankind. Not that Kartekeya cared what happened to humans. He would simply do the world a favor. The Genetically Modified cigarette plants would perform this miracle blindly.

Time to look in on his guest.

"Where am I?" Asked Dave groggily.

"In my humble abode." Kartekeya smiled evilly. "you are about to have a little accident. But first I need some vital information that you possess. So hand it over."

Dave didn't move.

"Now!" Kartekeya growled just as lightning flashed and the thunder rumbled.

Dave gasped in surprise and looked past Kartekeya. The latter sensed something behind him and turned towards the balcony. Lightning flashed and a silhouette of a sleek woman taunted his mind. Reflection on the windows danced eerily on her features which could not hide the determination set on her face.

"Let him go, Kart." She said.

"Why would I do that, Torufa?" Kartekeya asked. " Your soul is mine… now that you've killed your precious Gabrielle in this life."

"Annabel is very safe." Torufa confided.

"Just like old times." He admired. "You were always one step ahead of me." Kartekeya complimented.

"I'm tired of playing these games with you, Kart. That stuff you are addicted to, is very dangerous for people… and you." Torufa explained.

"Do you have any idea who you are dealing with? What do I care how people live or die." Kartekeya shouted back.

"You should care. Without us there is no you." Annabel Kingsley appeared by Torufa's side. "So we were close in a past life?" Annabel whispered to Torufa. "Strange that we're at odds now."

Torufa merely nodded and stayed with eye contact with the disguised God-of-War.

"Very good Torufa. Anything else I should know?" Kartekeya asked.

Dotty popped out of thin air. "Yeah, quit your filthy smoking habit."

Kartekeya shook his head. "Just great. Now everybody is against me."

"Looks like you lose, Kart." Dave smiled.

Kartekeya picked Dave up by the throat. "Wrong Mister Kingsley. You lose!" And he threw him over the safety rail.

"Dave!" Annabel screamed.

Kartekeya slipped away stealthily and Torufa rushed after him, while Dotty tried to hold Annabel back from a grizzly sight.

"I'm sorry, Annabel. Maybe I could have prevented this from happening." Dotty apologized and put a comforting arm around her shoulders.

A voice boomed over the ledge. "How about giving us a hand?"

Annabel and Dotty rushed to the ledge. Reluctantly they looked over and saw Dave sitting up straight in a widow washer's safety cage.

Annabel laughed happily. "Dave Kingsley, you are the luckiest guy alive."

A moment later Torufa was back looking sullen. "He got away."

Within moments Dave was brought up to safety. "That was close.." Dave said wiping his brow.

"I thought you were dead for sure." Annabel cried. "Let's just sell this place…"

"We can't… at least, not yet. We have a responsibility to the shareholders." Dave explained.

"I don't give a damn about the shareholders." Annabel exploded. "The just add another nail in the coffin if we keep this company. Shutting down this company will save many lives."

"But many people will lose their jobs…" Dave explained calmly. "We have to be responsible for them as well."

"What's your next move?" Annabel asked.

They both looked at the raven-haired beauty. "We have to find out where Kartekeya is going." She looked at their perplexed faces. "And I know just the person who might know." Then she took off, followed closely by the Kingsley's and Dotty.

* * *

A knock on the door was the last thing Sue Ramsford expected from the notorious Torufa.

"What do you want?" Sue asked sarcastically. "You already nicked my car once last week."

"And it was returned with a full tank of gas…" Torufa smiled sheepishly.

"They stole my hubcaps." Sue countered.

"No, I lost those along the way…"

Sue glowered and smirked, "You always were a lousy driver."

To the Kingsley's they embraced like old friends. Torufa broke the friendly hug and introduced the family pair with them. "These are Annabel and Dave Kingsley. I look after them so they don't get into any mischief."

Sue greeted both the Kingsley's affectionately. "You watch out for this woman." Sue smiled cheekily. "She's as mean as they come."

"You're a reporter?" Annabel asked when she noticed Sue's camera equipment.

Torufa answered before Sue. "She's my partner…"

Annabel looked disappointed.

"…in the CIA."

Annabel looked relieved and blushed.

"What were you thinking, Anna?" Dave asked fatally and received a punch in the arm.

Torufa introduced Sue Ramsford to them both.. After the initial formalities Sue listened keenly to the last few days report.

Sue interrupted about the origin of Kartekeya. "Are we really dealing with a mythical god. That's a little far-fetched, even for you, Torufa."

"It is incredible, I agree. But what we have witnessed is beyond scientific explanations." Torufa explained. She sipped the cup of Earl Grey tea tentatively before continuing. "We need to find out where Kart has gone."

"You could've asked me before…" Sue opened the lap-top she had on her coffee table and brought up a video surveillance recording within a few seconds. Sixteen cameras were shown at the same time. Torufa picked up the television remote and turned on the mega-sized LCD monitor.

"We're tapped into the live security network at the tobacco company." Sue explained. "Every exit is monitored."

"Won't your connection be traced? After all it is still hacking." Dave said.

Sue chuckled. "Good point. The computer core at the building thinks that my connection is a legitimate network computer inside the building."

"It can't be that simple. That will make you virtually invisible!" exclaimed Dave.

Sue beamed proudly and began rewinding to the approximate time of Kartekeya's disappearance.

Torufa was looking at the big LCD screen and pointed to camera number five. "He's exiting on his motorcycle."

"So now we use the city cameras." Sue surprised them.

The scene changed to streetlight mounted cameras and these followed Kartekeya to his unknown destination.

"He's going to the airport." Annabel suggested.

Torufa agreed.

"And he might use the company jet." Dave anticipated.

On the monitor a manifesto of charter planes popped up. "A privately owned Learjet has just been chartered for a flight to Puerto Rico. If we go now we could just make it before it takes of in about thirty minutes."

"What are we waiting for? Move people..." Torufa commanded.

They all left for the airport.


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