Disclaimers: The characters of Xena, Gabrielle, Lao Ma, Alti, Borias, and everyone else who sounds familiar belong to Pac Ren and Universal Studios. I am not making money off of this story.
Genre Disclaimer: Ok. Bear with me, please, because this is kinda tough to explain. Sometime last year, I read a story on the internet that moved me so much, I was inspired to write a sort of companion piece to it. That story was “Lost Soul Walking” by DJWP. In her words, “This is NOT UberXena fiction. It just starts out like it is.” The same can be said for this piece. While not directly related to “Lost Soul Walking”, “Desert Storm” can be considered a sort of prequel to it. It is a story, if you will, about the lifetime before the one depicted in that fabulous, outstanding story. (Can you tell I loved it?) In addition, this is somewhat of an ambitious piece of fiction, in that I am attempting (don’t know if I’ve succeeded, but I’ve attempted) to take the entire X:WP universe and modernize it. We start, in updated terms, with my version of Xena’s betrayal by Caesar (seen in “Destiny”), and continue up through the X:WP episode known as “Remember Nothing”. The plot will be very recognizable to you. It’s meant to be that way.
Special note: Because of this, Gabrielle does not appear, except in offhand mention, in a great deal of the first half of this story. Do not look for her, because you won’t find her. After all, she was not a part of ‘evil Xena’s’ life. If she were, things might have turned out differently, but because this is based on the premise of “Lost Soul Walking” it cannot happen differently. Gabrielle will, however, make her presence known, and that quite strongly, in the second half of the story. If you can hang on till then, I believe that you will not be disappointed.
Sexuality and Violence Disclaimers: We’re dealing with an updated dark Xena through much of the first half, and an updated redeemed Xena through the second. There’s gonna be violence. There are gonna be naughty words. There are also descriptions of sexual activity in this work. There are allusions to heterosexual sex, but nothing graphic. There are some graphic (though I hope tasteful) scenes of sexual expression between women as well. That is how I see the relationship between Xena and Gabrielle, and that is how I will continue to write it.
And, finally, thanks: To, as always, the incomparable Mike. A better beta and a better friend one could never hope for. Thank you also, as always, to Mary D, who rescued this story from the refuse heap and begged me to keep going on it. If you hate it, blame her. <w> Grateful and heartfelt appreciation goes out to DJWP, for continuing to write stories that grab me somewhere above the liver and giving her kind permission to mention her story in these disclaimers. If you haven’t read her stories, please, do yourself a favor and do so. Finally, this story is dedicated to a group of people without whom I would most probably be living on the streets. Elizabeth, Rachel, Sulli, and the rest of the “Get Sue to Atlanta” crew, this one’s for you!
Feedback: As always is gratefully appreciated. If you wrote to me regarding “Redemption” during the month of September to early October and I haven’t responded, please allow me the honor of apologizing in public. It was then that I was at my lowest point and making ready to move to my new home. Your words of praise and encouragement for my writing kept me firmly out of the pit of depression I was falling into and I shall be forever grateful to each and every one of you who took the time out to feed this bard. And for those of you patiently (or not so patiently) waiting for Redemption’s sequel, fear not, for with the conclusion of this piece, that piece will be started. Any and all who wish to may write me at SwordnQuil@aol.com . I’ll continue to do my best to answer each and every email. An exploding mailbox is a good thing to have. Thanks again!
by: Sword’n’Quill (Susanne Beck)
PART ONE: In The Beginning
“A new Xena is born tonight. With a new purpose in life. Death.” Xena: Destiny
22 July 1990: Al Kut, Iraq
It was hot. And dry. And bright. Very bright. The sun’s rays shimmered in a maddening dance, reflecting off of the heavily tinted windows of the tall building, deflecting back to joyfully lance into squinting blue eyes. A long fingered hand rose once again to shield sensitive eyes inadequately shielded behind a turban and protective face veil. “Are you sure this is the right address?”
“Positive, Gunny. I’ve got the orders right here.”
“Looks like an apartment building to me,” a third figure observed, squinting at the figures of heavily robed and veiled women as they led young children into and out of the massive structure.
“Check the address on the building one more time,” the first figure ordered.
“Aw, Gunny. C’mon. We’ve done this three times already. This is the place!”
Piercing pale eyes narrowed. “Do it.”
With a sigh, one figure detached itself from the group of six, striding across the wide, poorly maintained street.
“We’re wasting time here, Gunny,” came the voice of a fourth man, First Sergeant Timothy Epps. “This is the place. We all know it. Checking the address a dozen more times ain’t gonna change that fact. Let’s just do the deed and get the hell outta here. This heat is driving me bugshit.”
The blue eyed figure’s retort was cut off as the sixth member of the group returned, shrugging. “It checks out. The address is the same one as what we’ve got on the orders. Can we just do it already?”
“The only thing we’re doing is leaving here.”
“But Gunny! Our orders?”
“I don’t care if Bush himself sent those orders on a gem encrusted platter. There’s no way in hell I’m gonna blow up a building filled with women and children. Now let’s just get the hell outta here.” The figure stooped to retrieve some of the gear strewn on the sand swept sidewalk and was stopped by the distinctive sound of an MEU(SOC) pistol cocked and ready.
“Drop that gear, Gunny. We’ve got our orders and we’re gonna follow through on ‘em.”
“You’re forgetting your place, Epps.”
“No I’m not. You’re the one who’s choosing to disobey orders. I’m relieving you of duty, Gunny. Now drop that gear and back away slowly. I don’t wanna hurt you, but I swear to God I will if you don’t do what I say.”
“What the hell are you doing, Epps?” the sixth man interjected, stepping up to the pair. “Christ! Let’s just get outta here, huh? We can come back and try again tomorrow if we have to.”
“Come on, Epps,” another pleaded. “Put the gun away, ok?”
“Fuck you, Reingold,” came the sneering retort. “You always were Gunny’s little pet, weren’t ya.”
Reingold stepped closer to Epps, providing the needed distraction. The squatting figure stood quickly, gripping the wrist which held the lethal pistol and pushing upwards harshly. Breaking bones sounded like a rifle shot through the still air. The sound was compounded by a balled fist which shattered the man’s nose, crumpling his knees and dumping him, unconscious, onto the heat blasted ground.
Reingold completed his stride toward the pair, squatting down, his eyes wide. “Holy shit, Gunny. You killed him!”
“I didn’t kill him, Shooter. He’ll just wish I did when he wakes up. You and Reg gather up this horse’s ass and let’s bug out.” A loud sigh gusted out from the face veil. “What a balls up this turned out to be.”
“Uh, Gunny?” came the slightly tremoring voice of Reg.
“Uh, I don’t think we’re goin’ anywhere in a hurry. Except, maybe, with them.”
Turning, the group’s leader spied a squad of Republican Guards, resplendent in their scarlet uniforms, looking interestedly at the small party, their weapons held at the ready. “Aww, shit.”
One of the Iraqis stepped forward, speaking in rapid Arabic and gesturing with his weapon.
“What’s he saying, Gunny?”
“Nothing I’d care to repeat in polite company, Reg.”
“Fuckin’ A, man. We’re royally screwed here.”
“Looks that way. Just take it easy, ok?” Taking a deep breath, the leader stepped up to the guards, giving them an unseen smile. “Hello, boys. Something we can help you with today?” More rapid-fire Arabic and menacing weapons gesturing answered that statement. Gunny sighed. “Take off the hats, boys. Time to pay the fiddler.”
So saying, the squad’s leader reached up to remove the tightly wound turban, revealing a head of long raven hair and the beautiful face of one Master Gunnery Sergeant Kael Evan Androstos, leader of the USMC counter terrorism squad.
Following their leader’s command, the rest of the men removed their turbans, revealing close cropped heads of brown and blonde hair. Americans to a man.
The sound of Iraqi submachine guns being readied and drawn to high port filled the square as the squad’s identity was revealed.
“Aww shit,” Reingold swore softly. “I think I just pissed myself.”
“Be glad for the moisture and keep your mouth shut,” Kael replied, following the rapid Arabic speech with ease. “I think we’re goin’ on a little trip.”
“Ya sure know how to make a guy feel comfortable, Gunny,” Reingold muttered under his breath as he was herded with the others into a tight group surrounded by Republican Guardsmen.
The leader of the Guard walked over to the still unconscious form of Epps, prodding the body with his toe. He turned to Kael, his eyes questioning.
“Had a little accident,” she replied in Arabic.
The leader sneered and raised his weapon. A rapid fire of ammunition and Master Sergeant Epps was no more.