|Return Home||Part 2: Arrival|
None of these characters belong to me, and like so many worthy people before me, I'm only borrowing them for a short while. All characters referred to herein belong to MCA or Universal or Renpics, whoever owns them. No infringement is intended.VIOLENCE DISCLAIMER
There is some mild violence, less than a typical Xena episode though.LOVE/SEX DISCLAIMER
This story does contain slight alt subtext, so if that offends anyone, please read something else. In any case, I am planning to get the dynamic duo a bit more intimate eventually.SUMMARY
When history is altered to suit an insane god, it is up to a disillusioned warrior from the future to travel back in time to fix it.Author's Notes
I'm relatively new to the Xenaverse, both the series and fanfic. I never thought I'd actually write anything myself, but then this idea just hit me. I've read a couple of stories with similar themes, but not with this particular idea.
This is the first story in what I think could become a series. Now it is a crossover with Highlander, with a bit of Star Trek thrown into the first part. However, you don't have to know anything about these universes to follow the stories. I don't use any characters from those shows, just some of the ideas.
When I wrote this, I also had ideas for two other stories. Hopefully, I'll get more ideas as I write. Meanwhile, you can send any and all comments to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The entity floated, alone in the empty nether world.
It had no concept of existence yet. It had been defeated long ago in a weary battle, banished to this emptiness, its very essence scattered to the corners of the void. And it had taken eons for the myriad sparks of energy that had once been a feared force to gather enough strength.
Without much fanfare, not that anyone was around to notice, a certain threshold was crossed. The entity became self-aware. Sentient once more, it recalled its previous existence. It remembered the battle, and the exile. And it began its plans to return. To the realm it had once called its own. To the one it had so ignominiously been banished from.
The entity vowed vengeance against those in the continuum who had imprisoned it in this void, this empty universe, even as it continued to amass what little strength it still possessed. It now had enough power to gain glimpses of that other world. Its world. And more importantly, it now had the power to affect it again.
And so it began. Slowly at first, it amassed followers to its purpose. Influencing them, gathering strength through their beliefs, even as its adherents gained momentum in their cause to bring it into their world. And once it was ready, once it had its vessel, it came. Emerged back into the world it had not been a part of since time immemorial.
And, to its immense astonishment, was beaten back. Back into the nether world. Banished by puny corporeals this time, consigned to wait another millennia before it had the strength to try again.
And try it did. Once more, again, and yet again. Defeated thrice more, each time by a corporeal champion, and weakened with each failure, it decided. Its strength was already waning, and it knew it had only the one chance left. It had already seen the past, and knew it had no chance against its initial jailers. But the corporeals... they could still be defeated, if it could get another chance at them.
The entity weighed each possibility, and chose. With one concentrated effort, it acted. On a cosmic scale, the effort was almost laughable, the apparent results even more so. Moreover, the expenditure of energy had drained it of what little life was left. With something akin to a vengeful laugh, it ceased to exist. A lifeless husk, it floated as a dispersed collection of particles and dust, never to achieve intelligence, let alone sentience, ever again.
But then, it didn't have to. The damage was done.
The slight waver in the needle was hardly even worth recording. Besides, seismologists had more important things to worry about anyway. A minor tectonic shift in a part of the world that was largely unoccupied, one that wasn't strong enough to even register on the sensitive sensors for more than a second didn't cause any concern from anyone in the Global Seismologists Research Center.
A half a world away, in the region that was once known as Macedonia, buried beneath a literal mountain of rock, a small tectonic plate did shift however. Not very much, definitely not more than a few meters. The unusual surge of energy that had caused the shift hadn't been that strong, not on a global scale.
However, it was more than enough to dislodge the glowing red stone buried in the rock. More than enough to move the layers of rock that had covered the opening for millennia. More than enough to let the being held prisoner inside escape.
With a cry of triumph, he darted out, climbing over the shattered rocks to stand under the warmth of an almost forgotten sun. He had been freed a few hundred years back, but hadn't gotten the opportunity to escape. No thanks to her! But now, he was back! He threw his head back and laughed, a maniacal sound, laced with an ever so slight vein of hysteria and madness.
He stopped, gazing around at his surroundings. Oh yes, he smiled to himself, he had work to do.
More than a million visitors graced the halls of the Smithsonian museum every week. And today was no exception. From behind the hood of his jacket, the dark man watched the tourists and natives wander the corridors, gazing at the symbols of the world's heritage in awe and wonder.
He sneered. Pathetic mortals! They had no idea what lay in store for them, he thought as he moved past the throng of people and down a less crowded hallway. Carefully avoiding any suspicious eyes, he slid into the nearly empty room at the far corner. He had seen a tour group leave just moments before, and he knew from his earlier reconnaissance that the next group wouldn't come into the room for another 8 to 12 minutes. More than enough time for what he had planned.
He moved to the security ropes that lined the glass cases. Beneath the glass, the jewels on display twinkled under the artificial light. Without the monetary concerns that had governed the world for so long, the gems and other stones were little more than curiosities. Beautiful, yes, but definitely not worth the high security that some of the other displays had.
His hand ran over the smooth stand linking the ropes as he looked at the small green crystal fragment that lay nestled amidst a field of so-called precious and semi-precious stones. He sighed, remembering the ease with which he could have done this in days long past. But time had eroded many of the technological advantages he and his kind had once possessed. Just traveling around the world, as efficient as mortals had gotten at it, had found him gnashing his teeth with impatience at the length of time it took. With a snarl, he yanked on the stand, wielding it like a club as he smashed through the display case.
Glass shards flew in every direction, and behind him, the alarm whooped in warning. He could already hear the faint footsteps approaching, outside in the corridor. He grinned as he reached in and extracted the green gem, cradling the small fragment almost reverently in his palm. It was only a tiny piece of the original, limited in how far it could send him before running out of power, but it would be enough.
"Move away from the display case, and keep your hands where we can see them." The forms of four security guards appeared behind him, all of them holding up what appeared to be energy weapons of some kind.
Low levels of security notwithstanding, the man was still mildly surprised at their efficiency. But then, the hard part was already over. The man turned, gazing back at them unconcerned. He slowly brought his hands up, revealing the gem, now glowing faintly in his palms. He could almost feel the confusion radiating from the guards as he murmured beneath his breath.
The guards watched in mute fascination as he vanished in a brilliant flash of light, his laughter still echoing around the room.
And history stopped, jumped tracks, and started forward again.
She was riding. On a horse? Wait, that didn't make any sense. She hadn't ridden a horse in almost...
The thought petered out as she noticed the presence in front of her. Leather? Yes, definitely leather. She smiled at the almost memory. Her hands, which she realized were around this leather-clad figure's waist, moved. And came to rest against metal. She blinked, surprised. Metal? Armor?
The deep melodious laughter brought her head up to take in the dark locks of hair hanging in front of her face. She suddenly realized that she had been purring, her eyes closed, cheek resting against the other's broad back. And was feeling almost ridiculously happy. She couldn't even remember the last time she'd felt this way.
"Are you trying to tickle me, or distract me hoping I'll fall off?"
She felt a faint blush rising on her cheeks.
"Or are you trying to be naughty?" the voice continued.
The blush had now reached her ears. She was silently thankful that the one in front couldn't see her face. Of course, it meant that she couldn't see hers either. And try as she might, she couldn't remember the face that belonged to her companion.
Suddenly, the bright sky overhead clouded over. She frowned, then spared a glance over her companion's shoulder. She had time to take in the strong cheekbones and the edge of a mouth still caught in a smile from the earlier words before the landscape in front of her caught her attention.
Her companion seemed oblivious. How could she miss the fiery red looming in front of them? The fires raged all around, sheer walls of flame surrounding them, getting closer with each heartbeat. She opened her mouth to scream her companion's name. Her name? She couldn't remember her name, she thought frantically. But before she could utter a single syllable, the inferno was upon them. She felt herself getting thrown off the saddle, crashing into the rocky ground.
She slowly blinked her eyes, squinting to take in her surroundings. And gasped. In front of her lay the smoke charred skeleton of her companion. Next to the similar remains of what was left of their horse. She looked down upon herself with dread. But then she shouldn't have been surprised. She had survived unscathed, just as she always did, she thought bitterly.
She cautiously moved forward, her hands trembling as she reached out to the skeleton. Darting the last few feet, she let her hands run lovingly over the skull, to which a few wisps of dark hair still clung. Strangely, even through the bone numbing sadness, she couldn't bring herself to shed a single tear.
The soft whisper, or was it just an echo of her thoughts, caught her attention. She looked up from the images of death in front of her. In the distance, she could just make out the rough stone formation. It almost seemed to be calling out to her. And she was sure it was her imagination, but she could almost hear its words, "Stop this. You can do it. I can help. Let me be your gateway."
Her eyes traveled back down to the gaping jaw, the blank hollows that had once contained deep, dancing blue eyes. She felt the scream of outrage bubbling inside. She threw her head back and let it out.
The scream echoed around the empty room as the lone occupant sat up in her bed. For a few moments, the sound of harsh breathing filled the room. The figure raised a trembling hand, brushing strands of red-gold hair out of her eyes.
"Just a nightmare, it was just another goddamn nightmare." She waited a few seconds for her heartbeat to come under control. The dreams had been a constant companion to her for so long. Infrequent though they were, they still managed to evoke the fear, longing, terror and desire that she was careful to keep deeply buried during her waking hours.
But lately, the dreams had been getting more vivid. More detailed, and more troubling. She had even felt its aftereffects while awake. This had to stop, she decided. She had to do something to stop it. But she had to be careful. Even a hint of weakness... She shuddered at the thought of what she herself had done when she had seen weakness in others. Idly, she wondered why, after all this time, her actions would now choose to affect her so.
She heard the soft knock on her bedchamber, just as she saw the faint rays of sunlight filter through the windows. She pushed back, leaning against the headrest. "Enter," she commanded.
The tall woman who entered caused the figure on the bed to blink in surprise. For a moment, it almost, almost, looked like the woman from her dreams. She shook her head, chiding herself, and waking herself up completely at the same time.
"Mistress," the newcomer answered, pushing the dark hair out of her face, "I'm sorry to disturb your sleep, but the news has come in from the Brethna sectors. Three of the 16 systems had to be neutralized before the inhabitants would bow to the rule of our lord."
The warrior in her nodded silently, digesting the information as nothing more than a statistic. Another day, another system brought under the will of her lord. It was nothing out of the ordinary. But now, a part of her wept at the idea as well. How had it gotten to be this bad? She knew that she had had no qualms about obliterating entire populations, just to subjugate others. All in the name of war, of power, of control. In the name of her master.
She sucked in a breath as the revelation hit her. She was tired. So tired. Tired of all the killing, the loneliness, as the screams of the dying and the curses of the dead haunted her every moment.
"I can help. Let me be your gateway."
Her head shot up in surprise, thinking it was Cairyn who had spoken. When she realized the source of the voice, she gasped. This was the first time the voice had been so clear.
"Mistress?" the tall, dark woman queried softly.
"Nothing," she snapped back. "You may go."
Cairyn nodded, then turned to leave.
The aide stopped at the door, turning to look back at her mistress.
"Prepare my ship. I have something to take care of."
"Yes, mistress." The woman bowed, then left the room.
The woman in the bed sank back into the covers, images of the strange stone formation and the skeletal remains of her once soulmate flashing through her mind.
"It is time," the faint whisper echoed around the room.
In another reality, the blonde stumbled slightly over the uneven terrain. Slate grey rock and dust covered the ground in every direction. To her sides and back, the bleak and rocky horizon stretched seemingly forever. The skies above were almost the same shade of grey, the entire landscape harsh, uninviting in the extreme.
But all she could see in her mind's eye was her reason for being here in the first place. She turned her gaze forward again, clutching her bag just a little tighter as she neared the object. Her excitement could barely be contained. After years of effort, she was finally here. Her steps quickened ever so slightly.
The object loomed tall in front of her. She brushed aside the red-gold hair that had escaped her braid, her eyes traveling over every inch of one of the most secure, most valuable, and most dangerous sources of information in the known universe.
It wasn't much to look at, on the surface. In fact, it resembled nothing as much as it did the rock it lay amongst. A monolith of sorts, the center clear for now. The woman heard a noise behind her. Turning, she saw her partner walk up to her, trying valiantly to keep the windswept raven locks from obscuring her vision as she approached her.
She frowned. It wasn't like her partner to make any noise when she moved. If it wasn't her... Her face cleared as she made out the slight Vulcan woman who came into view a moment later. For a moment, she considered the appellation that these people had chosen for themselves. Having spent time on their world, she could well imagine why they might have chosen the name of the god of the forge to represent their people. But she wondered what that god himself would have had to say about it.
She grinned at her partner as the taller woman walked up to her. "Are you ready?" she asked breathlessly, her excitement not whittled down one bit at having had to wait for her partner and their guide to catch up to her.
"Dr. Covington," the Vulcan guide began, "you were informed that no civilian, under any circumstances, was to approach the Guardian without an authorized scientific observer present."
"Aw, c'mon, T'Sera. Cut me some slack will ya? It's not as if I'm going to use the donut hole to change history or something, you know." The blonde grinned at the other woman, seemingly unconcerned about the look of aloof disdain the Vulcan physicist displayed at her apparent irreverence for the object. "Besides, I just couldn't wait for you slowpokes to catch up."
"Hey, who're you calling a slowpoke," the dark-haired woman growled, her blue eyes twinkling nevertheless. "Shrimp."
"Considering I beat the mighty Dr. Pappas, not to mention a Vulcan, here..."
"Perhaps it would be best if we got started on your research, Dr. Covington?"
"Aw, sheesh, T'Sera. Lighten up. Don't you know we have all the time in the universe at our disposal?" the blonde shot back.
Her partner groaned at the joke. The Vulcan simply raised an eyebrow, then proceeded to remove her instruments from her pack.
The blonde shook her head, giving up on both her companions as she turned back to the monolith. The Guardian of Forever. A portal into the history of the entire universe. And all it waited for was someone to ask it the right question. She had waited for clearance to work with it for almost two decades. And now that she finally had a chance to be in its presence, for all her earlier humor, she was almost speechless.
"Hey, you ok?" the quiet voice of her partner broke into her thoughts.
She started slightly, then nodded silently. "Guardian...?" she began tentatively, swallowing nervously. She was old, but the Guardian itself was ancient, older than the written histories of any world she knew, older even than some of the worlds themselves. She had been instructed as to how to go about it, but she was startled nonetheless when the opening in the portal lit up with a shimmering glow, obscuring the view of the terrain on the other side.
"You have come, Gabrielle of Poteidaia."
She gasped at the low bass rumble, her head jerking to look at her companions. Her partner met her look of shock, both amazed at the Guardian's response. They glanced at the Vulcan, noting with surprise her apparent equanimity.
T'Sera watched the two archeologists stare at her in confusion. She tilted her head to the side, her expression conveying her silent question.
It was then that they understood. The words had not been said aloud. T'Sera had not heard them. Both humans came to the conclusion simultaneously, the revelation causing a flurry of questions to race through each of their minds. The Guardian had always spoken out loud, according to every report they had ever read. For it to communicate telepathically, and only to the two of them, was unheard of in the research outpost's history.
She turned back to the portal. Before she could continue her question, however, she felt the ground shake beneath her feet. She stumbled slightly, her hand going out to her partner, grabbing her arm to steady herself. "What's happening?" she shouted, straining to be heard over the rumbling as the earth shifted around them. All of them were now straining to keep their balance as the ground heaved beneath their feet.
She saw the Vulcan raise her tricorder, scanning the surrounding region. She saw the woman pause when her scan turned in the direction of the outpost.
"I am not picking up the outpost."
"What?!" Two incredulous voices shouted at once.
"The tricorder is not picking up the outpost. According to it, the fabric of space-time is being distorted around this area, although I cannot determine how far the instability extends. We are currently within a small bubble of normal time, but outside, everything seems to be in... a state of temporal flux." She frowned, not able to make any further sense of the readings she was getting.
On an impulse, the blonde turned back to the monolith. "Guardian," she shouted, "what is happening?"
"History is being rewritten."
This time, the physicist must have heard the Guardian's words as well. "NO!," she shouted. "We have done nothing to cause..."
"It is not what you have done, but what will be done that will determine the true course of your history."
The archeologists stared at each other silently as the rumbling slowly subsided. When the ground stilled beneath their feet, they turned to their guide.
T'Sera stared at her tricorder silently. "The outpost is still missing. But the amount of temporal flux is decreasing. The continuum is stabilizing."
"If history was indeed rewritten, and the outpost is gone, then why are we still here?" the blonde asked.
"The bubble of normal time seems to be generated by the Guardian itself," T'Sera replied, turning her tricorder to point at the time-portal. "It extends approximately fifty meters in all directions from the device. I would surmise that outside the bubble, the timeline of the universe has somehow... changed."
"We are all that remains of the original timeline?" the dark-haired archeologist asked quietly.
"Perhaps," the Vulcan answered. "It is not entirely improbable that others may have survived the shift, had they been protected as we were by a temporal shield. But the point is moot. We cannot leave the bubble ourselves. The moment we step outside the shield, we would cease to exist. At least, this version of us would."
"You mean, there could be other versions of us walking around in the universe out there somewhere? That's..." The blonde never got to finish her statement.
As one, all three turned when they heard the faint tinkling sound. As they watched, a lone figure materialized in the distance. As the newcomer neared, they could make out that the figure was a female human. When she came close enough, the two archeologists let out a collective gasp. Even the stoic Vulcan was affected.
"You were saying?" the blonde heard her partner's soft whisper. She saw startled blue eyes move from the newcomer to her and back again. Her own eyes gazed past her companions, looking past the haunted look on the newcomer's face, past the exhausted visage, as she stared directly into the piercing green eyes, and saw... herself.
The human outside had finally arrived where her dreams had led her. She had immediately noticed the resemblance between herself and the blonde woman standing next to the device. Coming closer, she gasped as the faint tendrils of energy brushed against her. Her hand went immediately to the weapon hidden in the folds of her coat, her eyes narrowing at the humans in expectation of a challenge. She walked up to the point where, according to her scanners, lay the edge of the temporal shield. Slowly she moved forward towards the others, her expression one of pain as she registered the face of the dark-haired woman.
The Vulcan noted the advancing woman, then looked back at her tricorder. Her suspicions were verified. "The bubble is collapsing," she said calmly, turning to face the archeologists. She had already made peace with the knowledge that they would not survive the next few minutes. She wondered if she could do anything to comfort the humans. From what she knew of human emotions, the archeologists should be displaying all the signs of terror at this point.
She was somewhat surprised to find them in an embrace, almost as if they had already accepted their fate. Their features, unlike what she would have expected, were almost peaceful. That was the last thing that registered in the Vulcan's mind before the edge of the shield moved past her and she was no more.
The newcomer watched the two archeologists come out of their embrace, turning to look at her. Even as she watched, the shield shrank into nothingness, obliterating the two women from the annals of the new history. Now, she was the lone occupant of the deserted world.
"You have come, Gabrielle of Poteidaia," the Guardian repeated its earlier words, this time to another version of the same woman.
"I am tired, Guardian. What do you expect of me?" the woman asked wearily.
"Your greatest task is at hand," the bass voice rumbled. "Behold the tapestry of your life."
Images coursed through her mind. In a corner of her consciousness, she recognized the telepathic connection that had been established. In the wink of an eye, her entire history literally flashed in front of her eyes. When the connection terminated, she realized that not only had she been shown what was, but also what once had been. And somehow, somewhere, something had changed. And it now needed to be changed back.
"You know what needs to be done?"
She nodded, her eyes closed as she cried softly for all the pain she had had to endure. All the darkness. She knew now who the others had been. The remnants of what could have been, what she could have been.
"If you succeed, all shall be restored to what it should have been. But remember, you may only thwart his actions. You are not to interfere in the otherwise natural course of events."
Turning back to the portal, she instructed, "Guardian, show me the history of the planet Earth."
Obligingly, the portal shimmered. The opening coalesced into an image of empty space. Soon she could see dust gather, forming clouds of gaseous nebulae as the stars formed. She watched in awe as the images flew past with dizzying speed. She saw a passing star rip stellar matter from the fledgling sun, matter which eventually cooled into rocky spheres. As atmospheres formed, life finally began to evolve on the third rock from the sun.
The images slowed, closing in on the planet. Verdant hills appeared, forests stretched to the limits of the image. At one corner, she could barely make out the cart as it trudged down the road. And she knew. It was time. She stepped forward, and disappeared.
The portal clouded, turned milky white, then shimmered into nothingness. Once again, the bleak landscape showed through the now transparent opening, and the Guardian of Forever waited.
This is probably the only story in the series that will be set in this timeframe. The rest that I have in mind are going to occur around the time of the tv series. This one was intended more to provide an introduction to the rest of the series than anything else.
I always read about how embittered Xena is by her life experiences, whether her past ones, or her life in the future in the cases where she becomes immortal. I wondered if maybe a person became like that because of those experiences, rather than some intrinsic character attribute. I'm sure there are an infinite number of answers to that. This one is just one possibility, I guess.
Anyway, I hope you liked my first attempt at writing in the Xenaverse. Any questions, comments, criticisms, queries, please let me know. My address is email@example.com. Later...
|Return Home||Part 2: Arrival|