Tourney

This section of the story features the following NPCs:
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::Earth::
::New Orleans, Louisiana::
::Marie Leveau’s House of Voudoun::
::June 20, 2379::

“… just Sara.”

He’d wanted to move… his synapses had already sent the message to his hand to break through the glass but then there was a sudden, strange pressure at his temple and… he couldn’t.

“I’m sorry,” the voice of the Doctor breathed into his ear, “but you mustn’t interfere. You and Sara didn’t meet until tomorrow… that can’t change.” Sorrow crept into the admonition, “None of it can…” Then, as if he could hear the multitude of curses Finn was sending in his direction he added, “I’ll remove the immobilizer once she’s gone but for now… please… watch.”

Like he had a choice. Locked in place by some unknown tech, Harry watched. He watched the rigamarole of candles lit and water sprinkled and, well that was a new one, DNA scraped over the coals of the incense bowl. The cards were shared and shuffled and laid out and…

“Change is coming,” Mousette told the petitioner. “A turning in your life… that cannot be turned back from. Soon… perhaps before the sun sets on another day.”

“Is it a good change?” Sara felt almost ashamed of how nervous she was but there was something in this meeting… something in the way the Queen’s hands moved, in the way the shadows flickered… something in the very air which echoed a feeling she’d never… Sara felt her eyes drawn to the mirror over the priestess’ shoulder… never yet experienced.

At the question, Mousette’s hand faltered but she found her rhythm quickly, turning yet another card, not that she needed it. This woman’s destiny was written on her soul and it was Mousette’s gift to see such things. The cards were the show, the expected trappings which, ironically, gave legitimacy to her vision. “Good may someday come if it,” she assured, truthfully enough. It was not, however, the only truth. “This turning brings a man,” she added, honor-bound to give as much of the future as she could, without tainting the outcome, “a man who’s own, unspoken need will ignite a spark of passion within you,” brown eyes met brown, “and that spark will grow to love and that love will grow to burning and that burning grow to a blaze which will encompass you for all to see…”

On the other side of the mirror, a single salty drop coursed down a weathered cheek to fall, unregarded, to the floor.

Days of Future Past with Harry, The Doctor and Sera
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Originally Posted 12/15/08 by Harry Finn


:: Gotham City ::

Silent wind tugged at the Batman’s cape, twisting it slowly around his legs and feet. It undulated gracefully as if in a dance – a ballet with the primal forces of the city. The hero himself stood as still as a statue. Had it not been for his piercing eyes boring into Nils’ as he lie on the street he wouldn’t have even looked real. The Bajoran stood slowly and attempted to straighten his uniform. Even at just over six feet, Nils still felt dwarfed by the imposing figure of the Dark Knight.

“Where are we?” Though he tried to sound authoritative and bold, his tone still wavered before the superhero.

“North of the Finger River… Near Robinson Park…” His voice was like hard wood scrapping against gravel. Still he didn’t move.

“That’s not what I mean,” Nils replied, trying to remain still.

“Where do you think you are?” Batman’s tone was grave.

“Alternate reality? A hallucination? I really don’t have any idea,” the CO said with a shrug. “My senses tell me I’m in Gotham City. But I know that’s not possible.”

No reply.

Nils suddenly became aware of the First standing just behind him. “He certainly is dire,” the acolyte commented, seemingly unphased by the whole incident. “He makes you look chipper.”

With a hand raised to silence his young counterpart, Nils stepped forward and continued. “I’m Captain Torrik Nils of the Federation starship Hawking. Are you… Have you taken on some form of Terran mythos to initiate first contact? If so I’d like to invite you…”

“I’m Batman,” the dark figure cut in. Then he leaned his head to one side as if encouraging them to follow. Slowly and deliberately the caped man turned and walked up the alley.

“And now we follow him?” The nameless one seemed completely at odds with the idea.

“Unless you have a better suggestion…” And with that the two men set out after the hero.

They didn’t walk for too long before they rounded a corner in the alley and continued to the end of a nook in one of the buildings. There, parked and silent, waited the Batmobile. At their approach, the canopy hatch slid back, revealing the cockpit and two seats. The Batman took the driver’s seat and said, “Get in.”

“But there’s only one seat left,” remarked the acolyte as he approached the unique vehicle. “And that seat looks restrictive for even one passenger…”

No reply.

Nils sighed and made for the car. “Wait,” said the acolyte, tugging at Nils’ arm. “I’ll get in first.”

“I’m not going to sit in your lap,” the young Captain protested evenly.

“So you want me to sit in your lap?” The acolyte’s tone bordered on whiney and his expression was a full on pout.

“No… What I want is to be back on my ship prior to the start of our last mission. But wants and necessity rarely coincide,” answered Nils bitterly.

A look of hurt flashed across the younger Bajoran’s face. He nodded and backed away from the vehicle.

Realizing his wish would have made their meeting an impossibility, Nils felt a pang of regret. He hadn’t meant to hurt the refugee from the mirror universe, but he also sincerely wished they’d never encountered the Orb that spun events toward Jillian’s death. After momentarily considering how to amend his statement, the CO gave up and climbed into the Batmobile. The acolyte followed suit, and settled uneasily on the elder man’s lap. His silence and demeanor confirmed to Nils that he had in fact hurt the First’s feelings.

As soon as they were relatively settled the canopy closed and Batman engaged the engine. The speed with which they accelerated out of the alley pressed them against the seat suddenly. Nils reached out and grabbed the nearest solid object to secure himself.

“You need Inertial Dampers in this thing,” Nils commented absently.

“Schematics,” said Batman instantly. “Get me schematics and I’ll install them.” He seemed almost interested.

“I’ll… Work on that…” answered the anxious CO cautiously. The First peered over his shoulder and gave his elder a disappointed look then rolled his eyes. “Where are we going,” asked Nils, dismissing the acolyte’s disapproval.

“Home,” answered the Dark Knight.

Nils hoped that meant that the hero was taking them back to the Hawking… Or a portal to the Hawking… Or some transporter device that had drawn them here from the Hawking. But he had his doubts. It was much more likely that they were going nowhere near the USS Hawking, but somewhere deeper through this dream world into which they’d inadvertently slipped.

Originally Posted 12/16/08 by Torrik Nils


The Snow Queen Variations
::The Winter Palace::

“Here you may stay,” the prince said as he opened the slab of ice which stood for a door, “here you will be protected, even if I am not at your side."

Jenny entered the room, turning around and about herself as she tried to take in the many strange objects which filled the space. Scattered about, upon tables or shelves of glass so clear they seemed to float, were what looked to be bits of… people’s lives, she supposed. Like a museum of the everyday. A pair of shoes in a deep, deep red sat like twin drops of blood against the bleak white of the structure; on one central pillar she saw an antique looking cylinder which, on closer inspection held the sort of wooden matches the woman she recalled as her mother preferred for lighting fires. Beyond was a closed metal box which, when she lifted the lid, let loose the scent of distant seas and was seen to contain a dagger, damascene blade and intricate hilt wound with strands of seaweed.

She was about to reach in to touch the oddity when his hand snaked around her to gently close the lid.

“What is this place?” she asked, bi-colored eyes darting about the room.

“It is the home of all my greatest treasures. Here are they kept safe.”

“Safe from what?”

“From everything.” He reached out and took hold of her hands, drawing Jenny’s attention back to him, always to him, “Here you may find some entertainment while I am gone…”

“You’re leaving?” Something about that resonated… an echo of a memory… someone else had left… had died… and it had hurt. Would it hurt when this one also went away?

“Only for a short time… there is a storm that needs to happen,” he smiled down and she felt the cold cloak of his regard, “I shall certainly return before you have forgotten me…” and then, with a sideways step into a suddenly-rising mist, he was gone.

Alone amidst the strange collection, Jenny roamed, passing by an empty clothes horse, a mechanical bird and a china statue of a shepherdess with little interest but then… “Oh…” then her eyes fell upon a small tin soldier, standing on his one leg and wearing an expression so desperately determined… she didn’t know the face, not really… but something in the small toy’s design bespoke a courage and selflessness (and muleheadedness) which she knew she’d seen, time and again when she still lived in the world… “oh.” Fissures, so small as to be invisible, began to form in the casing about Jenny Anderson’s heart as she stared down at the plaything.

Featuring the Snow Prince
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Originally Posted 12/16/08 by Jenny Anderson


-Winter Wonderland-

"Not far now, not far at all, just a little farther, but not too far, just beyond these woods," Otto chattered as he flapped in and out of the tall fir trees of the dark forest.

Ben trudged through the snowy woodland, the brush scratching at him as the weary engineer pushed through the undergrowth. Luckily, the warm clothing the woodsman had given him also protected against the brambles and frozen branches that clawed at Pierce. "You said that ten minutes ago," Ben replied, ducking his head to the side as a branch raked the left side of his face.

"And now we're ten minutes closer, got to trust me Sport. I know these woods like the back of my beak," the raven said as he flew past Ben's head and swerved in and out of the trees. A chill blast of wind ruffled his feathers and caused the bird to settle on a branch. "Smells like snow."

"It should, the stuff is all over the place," Pierce retorted, choosing to forgo the struggle against the branches and put his head down and plunge through the brush. It was a good plan and worked well until Ben ran headfirst into a tree trunk. "Aww applesauce!" Pierce yelled as he rubbed his sore noggin. To add insult to injury, one of the tree's higher branches chose to divest itself of a clump of snow which fell directly on BHP's head. "Cripes!" the young man said angrily, looking up to say, "Anymore up there?"

"Plenty where that came from, ohboyohboy," Otto squawked and preened his lower left wing then looked up suddenly and switched his head back and forth. Left, right, left, right, left, left, right. There was a change in the air. Otto could feel the air grow more chill. "Ohboyohboy sleet's in the forecast sport!"

"Spifflicated." Ben remarked with a tinge of sarcasm. He dusted the snow off his head and shoulders. The cold snow got under the neck of his shirt and brought on an intense shiver. A sudden mixture of ice and snow burst from the clouds above the forest. Ben drew the fur coat closer around his body, flipping the tall collar up so the lower half of his face was protected from the chill precipitation. "I could use a fire. Like the one the woodsman had in his cabin," his muffled voice protested.

"Too far now, won't help," the raven said as he took flight, now made more difficult by the icy weather. "Keep going north sport!" The engineer continued the trek until he burst out of the forest. The land rose up steeply as a mountain jutted above the forest. An incline led to a track that wound around the mountain and ended near the summit. The summit was crowned by a stunning blue and white palace, barely visible through the sleet.

"Ohboyohboy the prince really doesn't like yoooou," Otto said as he fluttered down and landed on Pierce's shoulders. The poor bird's wings were laden with ice and he could no longer fly. Ben reached up and plucked the raven from his shoulder, cradling it in his hands.

"What makes you say that? Besides calling me names, trying to steal my girl and freeze me to death he seems like a pal."

Otto's beady eyes looked at the human. Birds didn't use sarcasm as much as other species but Otto had been around the woodsman long enough to recognize it. "This is his storm Sport. He wants to keep you away from his new prize. We should find a fire." The raven's head switched back and forth. "Go west."

Ben turned and began to skirt the foot of the mountain. The raven seemed to know where he was going so the Iotian didn't argue with it. It was too cold to argue. If they didn't get to shelter soon they'd have to turn back or freeze to death.

"There, behind that large rock, it's a cave. Ohboyohb-b-b-boy," the semi-frozen bird said. Ben searched the rock face with tired eyes and finally found a large rock with a hint of a crevice behind it. He hurried to get inside the cave but slipped on the frozen ice near the entrance and tumbled into the cave. Otto squawked before being unceremoniously dumped on the floor of the cave. Ben cursed loudly as he crawled to his feet. He added an engineer's curse to the Iotian one as he stood up. But the curses were drowned out by another voice.

"Of all the caves and crevices in the Snow Queen's realm you choose to take shelter in mine," a gravelly voice rasped out. "Reach for the sky buddy or I'll feed you a hot dinner of lead."

Featuring NPC Benjamin Hyde Pierce
Originally Posted 12/16/08 by Javier Costala


USS Hawking
Counselor's office

Find Matt, ask Matt about Maddison…. T'Shaini winced in anticipation. find Nils? If it was more widespread that she had originally anticipated he may be affected. Regardless, he would have to be informed. Moving at a good clip, the counselor was startled by a sudden hand on her arm. As she lifted her gaze from the fingers encircling her bicep the castle at Elsinor shimmered into existence. With a tug on her arm Horatio set off and T'Shaini broke into a sprint to keep up with him. She could see a lone figure at the top of a rise, not Ophelia, staring sadly off into the distance. With an extra burst of speed they passed the woman…Gertrude? and paused, below her she saw…

"a willow that grows aslant a brook….Oh no." T'Shaini knew all too well what happened here. She could pick up the 'snatches of old tunes' that Gertrude no doubt could hear, and yes, there was Ophelia, climbing the tree. It was not too late. Running down the hill headlong the Vulcan watched as Ophelia began to crawl out a branch, 'her coronet weeds clambering to hang' and knew it was now or never. With a crack the branch supporting her broke and Ophelia plunged into the water. She began to drift downstream, while T'Shaini stumbling a bit over the roots of the tree, skidded down the embankment and plunged into the water. Thank goodness Javier taught me to swim after the camping debacle.

The current taking them around a bend in the brook, T'Shaini tried to gain momentum as she saw the young woman's 'garments, heavy with their drink' begin to pull her under. Diving down to the bottom, she found footing and launched herself forward and up…got her. The weight of the waterlogged Elizabethan garments would have dragged a weaker person down, T'Shaini spared a prayer of thanks for her not oft used Vulcan strength and swam to the shore. After dragging the two of them from the water onto the muddy bank, T'Shaini was relieved to se that she was still breathing. I am not sure what I would have done if she had not been. Pushing away the pang of loss for Jillian that those words conjured, she leaned over and whispered her name. "Ophelia." The rise and fall of her chest deepened, T'Shaini was certain she was awake. "Ophelia…." A flicker of the lids betrayed her. "It is alright, Ophelia…are you pregnant?" Her face turned to press against the Vulcan's lap and she began to cry. T'Shaini wrapped her arms around the young woman and reassured her. "There are other choices for you, we can find other choices." She repeated this over and over until two things happened, first the crying began to subside, then with naught but a warning shadow, Horatio knelt down beside them and brushed the tears from her eyes.

The afternoon passed and plans were made, the counselor could see that Ophelia could not yet read the devotion in the young man's eyes, but a kinship clearly existed…and who knew where that could take them. He had family that would take them in, and as soon as his role here was finished, he promised T'Shaini, they could travel back to Germany where no one would know her. Somehow reborn from after her baptismal jaunt in the brook, Ophelia listened and listened and after a long while opened up enough to tell them a bit about what they already knew, and blossoming under their understanding and trust even ventured a few tentative opinions. No matter what T'Shaini told her, it would take Ophelia time to realize that she had choices, although they were not as varied as those of women on the Hawking she certainly had more beyond a nunnery or death. Horatio seemed certain that his family, though poor, would be welcoming, and with the current…or emerging political climate (how soon did Fortinbras arrive?) Denmark was not necessarily a good place to be.

The trio rose and began to wind their way toward an abandoned hut used by shepherds in the high season, there Ophelia could stay until Horatio came back for her…poor thing, he had no idea of what he was about to witness either. T'Shaini leaned her hand against the door-frame letting the young man take the lead and within the blink of an eye the frame beneath her hand was of her own office.

Bemused, she stared at the door for a moment, then acknowledging the feeling of satisfaction that enveloped her, the Counselor pushed off of the door and headed for the lift. Nils cannot hide from me forever.

Originally Posted 12/16/08 by T'Shaini


Corinth
Town Center

They were walking in the center of the town, and Tatiana observed the townsfolk happily negotiating with the vendors standing next to carts and wagons full of objects up for sale. Everyone looked contented with their lives. It was unusually bright and sunny in the town as if there were no problems that could touch its citizens. “Why is everyone so…happy?” she asked as they passed a portly woman laughing it up with the woman she had just been fiercely haggling with.

“They don’t have the problems that you and I have,” she said and stopped. “Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that this is the place of Hercules' birth that trouble hasn’t found its way here in a while.” She looked at the products being offered. “You know, I’ve known who you are since the beginning.” Xena said as she examined the sharpening stone for her sword. “I just wanted to get to know you a bit to see if you were worth my time and effort.”

“Did I pass your test?”

“I’m still here, aren’t I?” she said and placed a few dinars in the hand of the vendor. She dropped the stone in a small bag that she had brought earlier and continued to walk in the center of town. “Anyway to get to the point of my visit…your reconciliation of your own feelings about your mirror?”

Tatiana nodded, “The people she was with did bad things in my universe, it didn’t matter if she personally took part or that she is me, what matters is that I question if it’s right for me to care what is going to happen to her.”

“To care for someone who others feel don’t deserve it isn’t wrong, Tatiana,” she said lowly. “I know from personal experience the good it could do.” She stopped walking to watch the younger woman as she thought about what the warrior had said.

Tatiana kicked the rocked and watched as it disappeared amongst the feet of the crowd, “You did bad things, and you changed.”

“That’s right,” she confirmed. “After a decade of misdeeds, it took my enemy, Hercules, to care what happened once my army turned on me. And afterwards it was my friend, Gabrielle, who kept me on that path. I see you don’t remember everything about me, I’ll have to tell you more later.” She pointed to a male standing by the horses tethered outside of the tailor’s store, “There, let’s get you some clothing. We’ve attracted more attention than I like.”

“Please don’t dress me in something crazy,” Tatiana pleaded as she followed Xena into the store.

Featuring: The Warrior Princess
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Originally Posted 12/17/08 by Tatiana Thorne


The rise and fall of her sweet frame continued to bring Matt peace as he watched her sleep.

Sitting on the edge of the bed, Matt once again moved to pull the blanket gently around his daughter, tucking the edges around her. Her nose scrunched up as she murmured in her sleep, which brought a smile to his face as the minute ridges that edge to top of her nose rose. A single arm pushed out of the safety of the blanket defiantly, flinging it to the side, it hung gently over the edge of the bed, her fingers curled gently towards her palm.

Matt slowly lifted his free hand and lightly traced her cheek. Several strands of wayward hair had managed to fall free across her brow which he automatically brushed back into place. "Honey Bear." He whispered with a bittersweet smile as he took one last look before forcing himself away from her bed and moved to sit in one of the spartan chairs, still facing her.

With a sigh, he dropped his face into his hands and breathed deeply.

Maddison continued to sleep, only the sounds of her breathing could be heard as it sung to him amidst the silence.

Over and over in his head, he allowed himself to imagine the sweet giggles that brought such joy to his heart. The years of pain and agony that had silenced the joy in his life seemed to wash away as though it had never existed, just a figment of his imagination. The months he had spent, self hatred clawing at his wounded soul, was not even a wisp of a memory in his mind when he heard her sweet voice. Nothing of the grief, not even his calloused heart seemed to be aware of it's earlier damages.

All because of the sweet girl that slept peacefully in his bed.

His bed.

Pushing himself violently from his seated position, he put as much distance as he could between them. Standing on the far side of the room he shared with CadetWekesa, he tried desperately to ignore the agonizing truth that tried to burst forth in his brain.

Deep down he had always known.

But the sheer relief that had come, the pain and agony that ceased to exist with her arrival, had dominated over every other aspect. For the first time in over two years, he felt like he could finally breathe. The vise that had grasped his chest had lifted, he felt so…free…

Turning back, he made his way back to stand beside her. Allowing the peace to wash over him as it always did when he saw her face.

The photo to the side of her caught his eye. Despite two years having past since it had been taken, his daughter smiling back with her mother's grin, identical to the sleeping form of the little girl before him. With a sharp intake of breath, he moved away again. His knees buckled beneath him as he dropped to the floor, a sob breaking forth to pierce through the silent room.

Of course he had always known.

How could his sweet loving daughter be here when she was dead. He knew she was dead! For it was he who had killed her…

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Originally Posted 12/17/08 by Matt Hudson


::Earth::
::New Orleans, Louisiana::
::Marie Leveau’s House of Voudoun::
::June 20, 2379::

=/\=Central to Ensign Laslow.=/\=

Outside of the Leveau house, the incoming communication had Sara shaking off the spell of Mousette’s words which, though some might consider the foretelling hackneyed (‘you will meet a tall, dark stranger’), had sent a thrill down her spine which felt… well it felt like truth and Ensign Laslow was known for ferreting out truths. “Laslow, go ahead.”

Two minutes later, she was on the move, she had to check out of her hotel before shuttling to San Francisco. When the Queen had said change was coming, she’d been more than right. Sara had just caught a new assignment; a joint effort with DIA and Spec Ops and all under the lead of some guy named Finn in JAG.

”… that love will grow to burning…”

With a shake of the head over her own willing suspension of disbelief, Sara Laslow continued on her way, shelving thoughts of sparks and passion for her off-duty hours.

Inside, Mousette Leveau turned to face the two men who slid from behind the ancient hiding space, “You knew,” she told them both, accusingly. “You knew what future that child carried when you came to me…”

The Doctor opened his mouth to respond but he had no chance as the other man threw him up against the wall, displacing half a dozen sepia-toned photographs in the process.

“What the hell is this?” Finn growled, blue eyes locked to blue, “Some sick attempt by my subconscious to make me feel better? ‘Oh, look, the voodoo priestess says it was fate… it’s not my fault she burned to death…’”

“Yes, right, that’s it,” the alleged figment responded, wincing as a corner of gilt dug into his neck, “because your subconscious is so well known for trying to make you feel better about yourself.” The grip didn’t loosen but something changed in his accuser’s expression, “Whatever else you may believe about me… what you’ve just seen here is real… it happened. You can run a trace on Sara’s movements from before the day you met…”

“Maybe I’ll do that,” Harry loosened his grip, one hand rubbing at the base of his neck, “right before I dive into that case of liquid death you promised to deliver…”

“And I will deliver it if, once we’re through, you still want it.” The Doctor watched Harry carefully, saw a shadow cross his eyes, “Are you all right?”

Harry shook it off, “Fine, just a…”

“Headache?” A pair of glasses were whipped out of a pocket and donned, “Gets worse when despair… during emotional extremes?”

But even if Harry had been inclined to answer, their hostess had had enough. “You may take your headaches, your promises and your emptiness out of my house,” Mousette told them coldly, though her eyes were on Finn.

The hollow man simply shrugged and turned away.

“Yes, yes of course. I’m so sorry,” the Doctor told the priestess, “it may not help to know but this was important…”

“Go.”

They went, not speaking the entire way back to the TARDIS. The Doctor was lost to wondering how much time he had left to get through to Harry and Harry was too busy shoving away at the sickening spike of pain, along with its accompanying hiss of denial at the Doctor’s offered solace.

Passing the crossroads, neither noticed the little man, with his jaunty bow tie and unwontedly sad expression, who stood near the sax player and watched them pass.

Revelations with Harry, The Doctor, Sera and a wave from Camael
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Originally Posted 12/17/08 by Harry Finn


Lia awoke by the time Javier arrived at the Ibrahim's, and had her arms locked around his neck making his attempt to lay her on the couch futile. "Don't want you to go," she said stubbornly as the little girl held on tight. "Okay," Javier surrendered and sat down with her laying on his left shoulder, waiting patiently for Lia to fall asleep. Eventually, she would doze off and let go of him and then he would have to leave, a method which was sure to put Lia in a bad mood. "Sorry Katie," the chief engineer apologized to the one who would be watching his daughter while he was on duty.

"No problem, that vacation Mustapha and I took while you and T'Shaini watched the kids more than covers this," the woman replied pleasantly. Eli chose that moment to make his entrance, rubbing his eyes sleepily while dragging his blankie. Behind the boy, a small Scottish terrier proceeded to pounce on the end of the blanket as it travelled over the floor. Seeing Lia clutching onto Javier and falling asleep on his shoulder, Eli naturally assumed that Javier's other shoulder would be a perfect place to continue sleeping. Before the engineer or Katie could tell him different Eli climbed onto the couch and settled on Javier's right side.

"This is familiar," Javier told Katie, waving her away when the woman acted as if she was going to remove the children. "During your vacation we had story time, and they would both pass out before T'Shaini was half-finished with their bed-time story."

"Eli told us that you taught him how to fish. He was so excited when he told us about it," Katie said quietly. "He trusts you Javier, and he loves you and T'Shaini..if anything ever happened to Mustapha and I, we hope that you and T'Shaini would.."

"Of course we would," he answered, Javier did not even have to think about his promise before agreeing, "but nothing will happen to you or Mustapha." Lia began to doze peacefully in his arms just as Eli began to drift off. Katie took Eli and placed him on the couch then Javier laid Lia down on the opposite side as Katie covered both of the children with Eli's blanket.

"No harm will come to the children of Lord Kira," Terasakai promised the young woman as the attack on the manor continued in the courtyard outside. The clashing of swords and the cries of wounded men could be heard very clearly and the eyes of the children of Kira were very large with fright. "I am here to protect you. It has been ordered that no harm should befall you." The wife of Kira was too afraid to speak and sat on the children's bedding, clutching the small boy and girl to her.

Terasakai turned his attention to the door and walls of the room. They were constructed of bamboo and could be easily penetrated by a wayward arrow or tanto. He placed himself in front of the three innocents and warily stood guard. The fighting was inside the house now and the clang of steel upon steel was deafening.

"Bushido does not forbid us to kill the family of Lord Kira but I ask that you honor my request to spare the innocent," Oichi told the other forty-six ronin who had agreed to carry out the vendetta against their lord's accuser.

"There are no innocents in the House of Kira," Shinshu hissed, "we have waited long and borne much dishonor because of Kira. We should remove him and his line from the earth."

"To kill the innocent will be a dishonor to Lord Asano," Terasakai spoke up, his voice carrying in the back room of the Honshu teahouse. "We should concentrate on Lord Kira, he is the one who must be brought to justice for the wrong that was done to our master."

"Does the young pup seek to teach the seasoned warrior about Bushido?" Shinsu said haughtily. there was a grumble of agreement from one corner of the room. "Your dishonor was not as great as you were the one chosen to end Lord Asano's life, do not try to lecture me on our code, boy," the elder samurai warned. "Duty does not require that we spare Kira's family."

"No, Bushido does not require it," Terasakai agreed then turned the phrase as swiftly as a reverse cut from his katana, "but my honor demands it." He faced Shinsu from across the room. "To Lord Asano you were merely a retainer, but I was his friend before I entered his service. I will guard his honor in death even as I did in life. Oichi-san, I will stand guard over the family of Kira. None shall impugn the honor of my friend Naganori."

*CRASH*

One of the panels split apart as a samurai burst through the door. Terasakai instinctively drew his katana and wakizashi at the noise and stood ready, defending those that he had promised to protect against one whom with he had served.

"Stand aside!" Shinsu ordered. The samurai approached with his weapon held high, his hands level with his shoulders.

"Another step and you will never walk again," Terasakai told the man. His katana was held horizontally above his head, his short sword also horizontal but low and in front of his body. "I will not hesitate to kill you to defend Naganori's honor."

"Fool, I do this for his honor!" the samurai shouted as he cut downward seeking to overpower and drive Terasakai down. His blade clashed against the other katana with a shower of sparks knocking the younger man's sword away. A surge of heady adrenaline flowed through Shinsu as he whipped his katana around. Terasakai ducked the blow and deflected it with his katana then stabbed Shinsu in the fleshy part of his thigh with the wakizashi. He withdrew the blade quickly and fell back. Shinsu dropped to his knee with a cry of pain.

"Retreat from this room while you have breath to do so," Terasakai told the ronin. Outwardly he appeared to be deadly calm but his heart was pounding in his chest. The brief encounter could have easily been his undoing. Shinsu had been overconfident and that was what had saved the less experienced warrior.

Originally Posted 12/18/08 by Javier Costala


The Snow Queen Variations
::The Winter Palace::

”Go away, little girl…"

The words, wavering and frail in the biting atmosphere of the palace, pulled Jenny away from her contemplation of the tin man she held.

"Run. Run away, far and fast…"

The speaker was, she came to realize, nothing more than a shadow, flickering against the frost-paneled wall. Hand wrapped protectively around the soldier, she stepped closer to the loquacious shade, “Where would I go?”

“Nowhere,” a new voice replied. New and musical and sharp as ice it cut the air between Jenny and the shadow, “There is no place but this, once you have accepted winter’s kiss.”

“I…” Jenny stepped away from the grand lady who stood, with small white flurries buzzing all about her, like bees attending their queen, “I didn’t accept… I… it just…”

“You must be wary of that one,” the Snow Queen said, nodding at the shade as she ignored the girl’s protests, “It is but a shadow of life and wants the shape of a true man. Always and ever failing in the ambition, it has become much given to frighting and deceiving the unwary.”

One black eye and one grey flicked back to the shadow which was now quiescent, a slender blot on the ice. “Why is it… here?”

“For that my son did fancy it,” the Queen approached with a soft rustle of fabrics and placed her hand under Jenny’s chin, raising the young woman’s face appraisingly, “He fancied you, when you came looking for respite… and now he has you, has he not?”

An old feeling, one she’d been taught over and again to temper with reason, spread the spiderweb cracks in the shroud of ice. “No,” she denied, her voice low with barely remembered fury, “he hasn’t. And I wasn’t looking for anything…”

A pair of slim fingers over the girl’s lips stilled the protest.

“You wished for an end to mourning,” the regal woman said, her own eyes empty of anything the mortal could recognize, “and my son’s thorns halted your tears and eased your heart even as his kiss preserved your life. But such easement carries a price.”

A deep shudder, born of the cracking in her chest, ran through Jenny as she drew away from the remonstrative hand, “What price?”

The white, white face tilted, observing, “Your presence, child… no more, nor less than that. You need have no fear… indeed, my son will see that you never fear again. He will stop your tears as he stops the memories which might bring them. No more shall you suffer the soft wings of sorrow to sigh you into sleep…”

The edges of the tin soldier were digging into her hand, “I don’t want to forget,” Jenny said urgently, tightening her grip as if the toy were memories to which she held fast, “I should remember. Someone should remember him… all of them but, he was alone and he shouldn’t be forgotten.”

“Is this so?” Something slid across the pale lips that might have been a smile. “And what was his name… this one that should not be forgotten?”

“It was…” Jenny stopped, frowning, “It was…” It was there… somewhere close but not close enough to grasp. “I can’t…” Jenny stared down at the steadfast soldier which lay still and lifeless in her hand. When she looked back up, the Queen was gone. “I can’t remember.”

”Run…”

Featuring the Snow Queen
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Originally Posted 12/18/08 by Jenny Anderson


:: The Batcave ::

Sprawling caverns laid the backdrop to a high-tech command center, which pulsed with energy unknown feet below the surface. The recently parked and still warm Batmobile descended slowly as the hydraulic platform that held it dropped even further into the depths of the cave. Computers lined one wall and large screens of varying sizes aimed themselves toward a single chair, where an interface console whirred on some preprogrammed assignment. A bank of Batsuits lay opposite the computer wall each with a different design and apparent purpose. The entire set up impressed Nils immensely.

The Caped Crusader crossed a catwalk, which hung precariously over an endless ravine and dropped into the single chair before the interface. The two visitors from the real world followed apprehensively.

“I don’t understand any of this,” the acolyte commented, his tone becoming acidic for the first time. “Clearly you have some perspective on all of this…ridiculousness, but to me this is all rather disquieting. And I don’t like it.”

“I’m not particularly enjoying this either,” answered Nils as he stepped off the catwalk. “And my perspective is as lost as yours is. I’m not human and I share no real connection to this character. I just know that stories of the hero Batman can be found in old radio scripts, novels, vids, and something called comic books, which are the format he was created to inhabit. I have no understanding other than that.”

“You never saw these vids? Or read these books?” The two men took a spot as far away from the Dark Knight as they could while still remaining on the same platform.

“I read one. Once,” Nils admitted. “It made me uncomfortable so I didn’t do it again.”

“Uncomfortable?” The nameless looked irritated. “Do you think you could…”

Footsteps descending from above drew both men’s attention. They watched as an elderly gentleman came around a bend in the stairs that disappeared up into the rock wall. He carried a silver tray with a silver tea set. And he looked very familiar to Nils.

“Wait a minute,” he Bajoran said taking a step towards the man. “I know you… You’re Camael. We just saved you from that nebula.”

The diminutive yet well-dressed man looked surprised and arched an eyebrow. “Actually sir, my name is Alfred. And I serve Master Way…er… I’m butler to the Batman.”

“No you’re not,” Nils said unwilling to accept anything at face value any longer. “You’re an alien and you’ve abducted us… Or you’ve locked us in some kind of…illusion.” He charged the man threateningly, but before he could close much distance a dark armored arm jut out in front of him and blocked his approach. Face to face with the Gotham Goliath, Nils felt utterly intimidated. “What have you done to us?” He didn’t’ know who to address so he looked back and forth from the Batman to ‘Alfred.’

The elderly man, looking quite innocent, answered sincerely, “We’ve brought you to the Batcave. To help you… Or more accurately the um… The master has. He’s always doing such good deeds. Oh not like that boy scout in the red and blue from Metropolis, but he does his fare share in his own way.”

“What is he talking about?” The acolyte said in frustration.

Nils ignored him. “This is not real.” He paused and waited for a response that never came. “We know this is just a fabrication. The Batman isn’t real. Gotham City isn’t real. We’re in some kind of fantasy and I demand you return me to my ship!”

“I agree with the, Captain,” The First interjected taking a step to the CO’s shoulder. “This is not reality,” he asserted on blind faith.

Alfred chuckled. “Ah yes yes… Reality.”

The stoic Knight suddenly chimed in, though his tone was anything but 'chimey'. “Confined in the dark, narrow cage of our making which we take for the whole universe, very few of us can even begin to imagine another dimension of reality.”

“You’d be surprised,” answered the refugee from another dimension with a wry expression.

“I’m not going to take part in a discussion on metaphysics when I’m being held against my will. Return us to our ship!” Nils face reddened in anger.

“Did you know that Master Bru…er…yes… ahem, the Batman learned that proverb from a Tibetan monk? He’s intent on study, he is. He sees it as a quest in and of itself. Perhaps you have a similar quest?”

Suddenly struck by the man’s words, Nils tried to see past the obvious and chose to don the role of diplomat. “We are explorers. It is one of our highest mandates. But we also value freedom above even that. If you hold us here against our will, we will be forced to take action.”

Alfred chuckled. Batman did not.

“Maybe you shouldn’t threaten the giant man in the bat costume, Captain,” the nameless one said seriously. “He doesn’t seem very amicable.”

“Oh tutut… He’s amicable as can be,” the butler said as he scuffled towards a table. He put down the tray and turned towards the three men, who looked intent on battle. “We just want to have tea… And I assure you we mean you no harm. Master ah!!” He caught himself this time. “Batman has made an oath not to take any life. It is his greatest strength and his greatest limitation. You are safe and sound and we just want to have a very brief discussion.”

Nils looked from the hero to the butler and back again. His quick mind took it all in and processed the situation thoroughly. Had they intended harm, that intention would already have been fulfilled. And he had very little choice in the matter anyway. “We’ll talk,” he acquiesced seriously. “Why are we here?”

Batman took an ominous step closer and stared down at the Starfleet Captain. “You’re like me…” His deep baritone echoed off the cavern walls at the pronouncement, then echoed back again before silence fell. The two men faced off, neither willing to break eye contact for several moments following.

“Brooding and irritable?” The acolyte’s voice broke the quiet, and his tone lightened the dark cave. “I completely concur.”

“Heheh… yes yes…” said Alfred, sounding almost nervous. “Why don’t we have some tea?”

With The Batman, Camael (Alfred) and Torrik Jachin
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Originally Posted 12/18/08 by Torrik Nils


::Girijan::
::Orb Cavern::
::Terran year 2116::

Back in uniform, now, Harry burst into the TARDIS, “That was it? We go over two hundred years back to see some guy painting a cave wall?”

“Not just any ‘guy’… a Hentari… and not just any wall, either,” the Doctor replied as he closed the door and moved towards the controls, “the same wall Dr. Hallows was so interested in, during your brief sojourn… if you’d let him translate it, you may have been more prepared for what came next…”

That brought a predictable look, “Right… ‘cause, I would immediately have known that…” shit, what had that Hentari been spouting on about?

“The Tainted Warrior will combat the Hollow Man who walks with Death, and in their meeting shall the Untrod Path be opened,” the Doctor supplied, not bothering to look up.

“Right, I would have known that meant, ‘Harry, don’t go fight the crazy local.”

“No, you wouldn’t… but when that portal opened, you would at least have had some idea that it couldn’t have been avoided. What that Hentari saw, over two hundred years before you set foot on Girijan…”

“Was a bunch of poetic bullshit that could have applied to anyone who happened to show up.”

“Really… and the second part, 'The Gentle Warrior will be subsumed, and thus his hand shall be made to break the Sky'? That sounds like no one you know?”

Harry chose not to respond, in part because he doubted Costala would appreciate the appellation and in part because, well, he just didn’t want to. “Whatever. When are we going, now?”

“How’s the headache?”

“Has anyone ever told you that’s an irritating habit?”

“More times than you could possibly imagine,” going to the controls, “but I’m quite serious, how is the headache?”

Harry shoved the hand that had been rubbing at the base of his skull back into a pocket, “What headache? When are we…”

“Back to 2384.”

“Great… let’s make a stop in 2347.”

The other man said nothing, just continued with whatever esoteric calibrations were necessary to get a TARDIS where… or when… it was going.

“Now I’m quite serious,” Finn said pointedly, “2347, in Pennsylvania, the Northwest corridor of…”

“I know what you want to see,” the calm voice interrupted, “and the answer is ‘no’.”

“Why?” In a heartbeat Harry was next to the Doctor, “You had no problem parading the woman I wanted to marry in front of me… and not let me do anything to stop…”

“And you see,” disgusted, the ancient alien put the TARDIS in neutral, “that’s exactly the kind of attitude that made me use the immobilizer…”

“I could have saved her…”

“No. All you would have done is change the way she died. The way everyone died because, Harry, if you change one thing, you change everything and the universe is very particular about people rearranging events… patterns shift, time can’t hold the bits together and everything falls apart.”

“It’s just one woman…”

“Or one man… one father… one quantum butterfly… it doesn’t matter, Harry. Change one thing, change everything.”

“So it’s all set in stone? Sara was always going to immolate herself and… and the rest… because she was supposed to? I don’t buy that bullsh…”

“No.” A hand brushed frustratedly through the air, “No. It’s not that simple. Things do happen… not for a reason but they do happen and, once they happen, they become the reason. What Sara went through is, well horrible doesn’t describe it, but so many other events hinged on the Anarasi Maru incident that to prevent it would begin a domino-effect of disasters the likes of which you can’t imagine.”

Harry looked down for a moment, residual heartache at war with the headache, before he again faced his host, “Fine… then use your little doohickey so I won’t get in the way. Just take me there. Let me see who murdered my father.”

“No.” Returning to his multitudinous dials and gauges.

“Why?”

The Doctor’s eyes closed, briefly, “Because the time isn’t right. It’s too soon for you to find out…”

“If I get what I want at the end of this trip, I’ll never find out.”

“Then maybe you should reconsider…”

“No.” Finn, shaking with rage, his vision going dark, spun away and began to pace the floor, “Not again. I’ve been talked out of it too many times and I’m done. I’m sick of being the one who comes back, or crawls back, or is carried back by people who have no damn business putting themselves at that kind of risk. And for what? So more of them can die and I can come back again.” He stopped, turned towards the wide-eyed innocence before him. “You have no idea what it’s like…”

“Losing the people I care for, over and over again and always, always being dragged back to life, unable to follow where they’ve gone because there’s a job to be done and no one else able to do it?” The last of the Time Lords stared hard at his unwilling associate for a moment before bringing his attention to the telemetry before him, “You’re right, I’ve no idea what that could possibly be like.”

Finn held his ground, “If you understand, you’ll help me…”

“As hard as it is for you to believe, Harry, I am helping you.” The machine around them gave a jerk and a shudder and and the Doctor let out a small sigh before again facing the Starfleet officer. “We’ll stop here but a moment…”

Harry didn’t move. “Change one thing, change everything,” he echoed the Doctor’s previous statement, “Didn’t you change something, just by coming into my quarters and stopping me from taking that drink?”

“As a matter of fact, I was… preventing a change just then,” he went to the door and paused there, “as you’ll see. This will have to be a very short visit, we can’t risk being spotted.”

Curious in spite of the internal mumblings which were slowly growing louder, Finn joined the tour guide. “By who?”

But then the door opened and Harry was engulfed in the stench of smoke and searing flesh and new and old blood and the voice of madness…

“Why won’t you burn…!”

And he knew.

“Didn’t I just do this dance?” Harry asked but, being given no answer, swallowed the bile rising within and followed the other man into the murk of Temple of the Ascended, where his Captain was even now being offered up as a sacrifice.

Featuring The Lonely God (Doctor Who)
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Originally Posted 12/18/08 by Harry Finn


A Cave in Winter World-

"You!" Ben said in disbelief as he caught sight of the speaker.

"Yeah, me, you got something to say about it Bub?" the short, slender man asked as he stepped out of the shadows and into the light. The cave was comfortably decorated in Chicago 1920's smuggler warehouse motif replete with a bar and lounge around which large barrels of Canadian whiskey were stacked. It was also warm because of a large fire built in the center of the cavern. Otto floundered over to the circle of stones that ringed the fire, the ice which had coated the raven's wings began to melt almost immediately. "Bogey meet Ben," Otto squawked, "he needs to get inside the palace."

"You're him! You're Bogey," Ben said enthusiastically. The Iotian couldn't believe he was in the presence of one of his society's greatest idols. The Book had mentioned Bogey. The Book! I'm actually being covered by someone that is mentioned in The Book!

"Smart kid you got with you Otto," Bogey remarked as he gave Ben a curious side glance. The gangster relaxed, allowing the barrel of the machine gun he was pointing at Ben to drift downward. He took a seat on a barrel and motioned Ben over to another that was opposite him. "So what's the breaks kid?"

"Otto and me got to get into the Snow Palace," Ben answered as he took a seat on one of the many wooden whiskey barrels that looked like genuine Prohibition era booze storage. The contents sloshed around as he took a seat and Ben wondered what the gangster was doing in a cave in winterland with all that illegal hooch.

Bogey let out a low whistle. "The palace? She ain't like knocking over a bank, kid. You got to have a plan to get in there. Why do you wanna risk it?"

"My girl's in there, the snow prince took her," Pierce told the gangster.

"The snow prince is bad news. Are you sure this dame is worth it?" Bogey inquired as he took a pack of smokes from the front pocket of his shirt. He offered the pack to Ben, who refused, Bogey shrugged and helped himself to a cigarette. "If that twerp catches you, you could be pushing up daisies."

"He already tried to turn me into an ice block." The engineer leaned closer to the fire, pushing his hands out towards the warmth emanating from the burning wood. Pierce looked into the embers of the fire. A chill wind whipped through the cave causing the flames of the fire to flicker. The temperature dropped a few degrees. Is she worth risking your life for? a seductive voice whispered in his thoughts. A scene unfolded in front of his eyes as if Ben were looking at a floating viewscreen.

Jenny was looking pensive as a low voice asked, “And what was his name… this one that should not be forgotten?”

“It was…” Jenny frowned, “It was..I can’t…” He saw her head drop down, the auburn hair falling about her face as Jenny stared at the floor. It's Ben. Pierce thought in heart-wrenching silence as he watched Jenny struggle to recall who he was. There was a small glimmer of hope when she raised her head to speak. “I can’t remember.” Ben closed his eyes. He didn't want to see any more of the vision.

If she remembered you, would she ask you to save her? the voice, so cold, that it seemed to hardened his heart inquired.

I don't know, Ben whispered as his head dropped in submission to the voice of Winter. But she didn't ask before and I still helped end Chuck. Pierce stated, recalling the telepath who had terrorized Jenny during the regatta.

She doesn't need you, the dread voice hissed through his thoughts, freezing his resolve with her breath. She wants to be free of pain and you are part of her grief. Leave her, leave my realm and I promise she will never feel pain again. The wind whistled through the cavern.

The fire blazed higher as Bogey, feeling a sudden chill, tossed an armful of logs into the flames. "It's getting colder fellas, I say if we're gonna make a move against the Snow Queen we do it now." Pierce felt as if he was awakening from a dream. With doubt still firmly wedged in his mind, Ben looked up and said, "How do we get in the palace?"

Bogey jerked a thumb towards the dark inner recesses of the cave. "This travels back into the mountain and leads through a series of passageways that can help us gain access to the lower part of the palace."

"And weapons?" the engineer asked. "I can't exactly wait to light a fire if that Prince shows up with his ice storm."

The old gangster grinned in his trademark side smile as his foot idly kicked what appeared to be a pair of violin cases sitting on the cave floor. He nudged one towards Pierce, who began to grin as he reached down and opened the case. "Whadda ya say kid," Bogey asked, "feel like joining the band?"

Ben pulled the Tommy-gun from the violin case and inserted the drum magazine in its receiver, pulling the bolt back with a loud clack. "I have a tune I'd like to play for the Ice Queen," he said, "lets go find her and make her listen."

Featuring the Great Bogey and Benjamin Hyde Pierce
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Originally Posted 12/19/08 by Javier Costala


::USS Hawking::
::First Officer’s Quarters::

“I’m sorry, I’m sorry… I am, quite truly, sorry…” the Doctor’s apologies were a desperate counterpoint to Harry’s blindly stumbling steps as he was half-led, half-carried back into his living area, eau de whiskey still in full force. “I knew revisiting the temple could bring up just the kind of emotion that would feed Kosst’s offspring but I didn’t think it would be this bad… ”

Fighting off the sickeningly visceral recall of all that had gone down on the IAS, twinned with the nerve-shattering pulses which were steadily increasing throughout his brain, Harry shook free of the offered support and found himself leaning against the wall near the replicator. His hands pressed against his skull as if to hold it together while he tried to process the scene he’d just witnessed. Not the part where he’d been tossed into the wall like a Raggedy Finn doll… he’d remembered that just fine, thank you… but the bit afterwards. Was it real? Could it have happened?

He watched the impact, as his former self connected with the temple wall and the previous Harry slid to the floor, unconscious and therefore unaware of the following dark… a hulking, red-tinged shadow which had hovered over the unmoving form of Harry-that-was and… this was the really weird part… hauled back and…

“It… did it? It just… spit on me,” Finn, watching, had complained. “Holy, freakin’…” Just when you thought things couldn’t get any worse, the universe up and presented you with Wraith loogies.

The Doctor winced, “Not… exactly…”

Harry turned his pained gaze to the other man, “Meaning… what?”

In the here and now, Harry recalled what the Doctor had meant. That, unable to take this universe in a storm of fire as planned, Kosst Amojan had deposited a microscopic portion of itself into Harry, who was now on the verge of becoming parent to his very own baby Pah Wraith which, if it ‘grew to term’, would burst into full, sentient and unfettered existence to wreak whatever havoc it could.

Hearing this, Harry’s interior world exploded in a volcanic eruption of despair, which emotion, according to the Doctor, was the stuff of life for Mini-Kosst. It then grew worse as he’d seen the then-Javier burst in to pull Nils and Harry out of the frying pan…

“… and into the fire…”

“Harry?”

“Sorry… just… it’s never really over, is it?” a sudden overwhelming sorrow rose up beneath the burning spike in his head, which then shot slivers of itself out to all of Harry’s limbs, forcing him to his knees…

“It will be,” the Doctor promised, kneeling next to him, “now you’re home… it will be over soon,” his gaze tracked up towards the elderly man who stepped from the shadows, “isn’t that so?”

“Very much,” Camael agreed, his eyes moving curiously from Harry to the Doctor and back, “help is on the way, this very moment.”

“I have to go, now Harry,” the Doctor said, “but it has been… quite an experience.” He rose and gave a small nod to the old man, “Camael.”

“Doctor,” with not the slightest expression of surprise, the Hawking’s strange visitor watched the Gallifreyan enter the call box and close the door.

Finn’s blurred vision took in the cheerful little guy, “I knew he wasn’t real,” he said, just before his personal world faded to the sounds of the TARDIS' trademark thrum.

Exeunt, Doctor
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Enter, Camael
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Originally Posted 12/19/08 by Harry Finn


The Snow Queen Variations
The Winter Palace

‘Run,’ the shadow had told her but, search though she may, Jenny could find no exit from the room, not even a seam to indicate where the door had been. She was, as far as she could tell, sealed in a hollow block of ice, just one more gimcrack in the prince’s strange collection.

Frustration rose, doing further damage to the casing which had sealed her heart from sensation but also allowing her to better feel the constant chill of the palace… which was nothing compared to the chill of realizing that she was forgetting everyone she’d known… everything she was. Jenny still held the toy soldier but had come no closer to recalling who it represented and now she paced about the strange prison, eyes darting from object to object until they landed on the matches.

The matches like those the woman… no… not the woman… my mother… liked to use. Megan Lin Anderson… literature professor… would light the logs she’d lay in the fireplace in the great room of their house… their house in Boulder, which was in Colorado, which was on Earth.

“Mom…”

So now Jenny snatched down the match container and, holding her two touchstones, looked around again. The box… the box with the dagger, that had given her a ping, too. Not the same way as the matches but still. She’d opened the case to smell the salt sea and lift out the sharp and slender blade and her mind flashed to the last time she’d carried such a weapon… and the Bajoran hostile who’d died with her knife in his throat.

She’d wanted to drop it, then, remembering the queasy sucking sound of the blade being drawn from the wound, the utter stillness of the man she’d… killed… but she didn’t. It was a memory and, good or bad, it was a part of the whole which Jenny was trying to discover. With the matches and soldier held protectively to her side and the blade ready in her hand, Jenny combed the room, searching for pieces of her history in the remnants of other people’s lives.

“What are you doing?”

Jenny didn’t look up from the floor where she sat surrounded by his acquisitions. Rather, she continued her contemplation of the blood-red shoes which sat, empty and somehow threatening, before her. “Remembering,” she said quietly.

There was the slightest of pauses, “Jenny, look at me.”

“No,” she told the pair of shoes which had only given her the impression that she didn’t care for the color red… or she wasn’t fond of dancing? Looking away, she locked her eyes on the little mechanical bird… it was like nothing she’d ever seen before… and knowing this, discovered another part of herself. She’d never seen a mechanical bird covered in jewels. Jenny closed her eyes and embraced the knowing.

“Jenny,” the hand, so cold, so hard, fell onto her shoulder, “you don’t want to remember.”

Pulling away, “You don’t know what I want.”

“I know you were grieving, when I found you. I know you were weary of the pains with which your world is rife.” He watched the down-turned head with patient interest. Eventually, the mortal would have to look at him and when she did, her heart would once more be his.

“Grief is… it’s a part of living,” Jenny said, turning her attentions back to the tin soldier which, of all the bits and pieces this room possessed, she found herself unable to release, “and as much as it hurts… to try and leave it behind is like… cheating.”

“Look at me.”

She shook her head, “I don’t want to forget anymore.”

“But,” a hand, as white as the sleeve which fell over it, covered hers, along with the toy she so desperately clutched, “you have already forgotten, have you not?” With no sign of effort, the prince took possession of the tin soldier…

“Don’t!” Jenny’s cry broke the air and she flung herself at the prince but he brushed her aside with a glancing breeze as, with slow and deliberate cruelty, he crushed the plaything until it was no more than a handful of unidentifiable bits, which he then let drop to the glittering floor.

“Oh… no,” Jenny crawled to the pathetic heap, “Oh, Ben…” and sighing the name she felt again the grief, hot and burning and moving the ice floes from her heart and releasing a tear from her right, black, eye. That tear, which carried in it the Snow Prince’s thorn of frost, now landed on the remains of the soldier and such was the potency of grief in that tear that the metal it touched melted and pooled into a new shape…

“His name was Ben,” she said, turning her eyes, both grey and both weeping freely, away from the new-formed heart of tin to meet the prince’s own, unfeeling gaze. “His name was Ben,” Jenny repeated, taking up the cooling heart in one hand while she reached for the sea-born dagger with the other, “and I won’t let you take him away from me, again.”

The Prince of Snow
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Originally Posted 12/20/08 by Jenny Anderson


:: The Batcave ::

“So this ‘Batman’ has no powers beyond that which any normal human might accomplish through rigorous training and application?” The acolyte sat across from Alfred at the table entranced in the present discussion. Torrik Nils and Batman stood, unwilling to take part in the elder man’s tea party. “I don’t understand how this sets him apart… Other than the fact that he wears rather…” The First paused and looked the Caped Crusader up and down. “Flamboyant attire.”

The Batman swelled at the acolyte’s choice of words.

“That’s the real question isn’t it,” wondered Alfred as he too looked over his employer. “What sets him apart?”

“Why are we here,” demanded Nils once more pounding his fist on the table. “I am not going to take part in this fantasy!”

“Settle down and have some tea,” insisted Alfred as he poured a cup of the steaming brew. “Your brother and I are talking…”

“He’s not my…” Nils caught himself and stopped talking. He locked eyes with the First and couldn’t help but see hurt in them.

Thankfully, Alfred chimed in. “The alley that Batman found you in is no random alleyway. It has very specific meaning for him. Perhaps he will tell you of it?” Alfred glanced up at the Dark Knight and nodded, prodding him on.

Still as a statue, but for his eyes, Batman began speaking in a dark and grating tone. “Crime Alley. That’s what it’s called. Famous haunt of small time criminals. Most of Gotham’s inhabitants will walk an extra hour to get around it.” He paused and looked at Nils. “My parents were murdered there…”

“When you were a boy,” said the CO quietly, lost in thought. “I remember…”

“Ah so you do know the tale,” the elderly gentleman pouring tea said seriously.

The First had not removed his eyes from the Captain and regarded him with wonder. “The Batman said… He said you two were alike. Do you think he meant…”

“I don’t care what he meant,” snapped Nils.

“That night my quest was born,” said the Knight who’d silently moved very close to Commander Torrik. “In death, my purpose was forged. In pain, my life set course. In loss, my destiny became real.”

“That is not me,” Nils said backing away from Batman. “You fight crime out of some need for revenge. And I don’t fight crime at all. I’m an officer in Starfleet.”

“What does your Starfleet stand for?” The Caped Crusader’s tone was demanding as he advanced on the young Captain. “Justice? Freedom? Protection for the innocent? Why are these things so important to you that you would devote your life to them? And why… Why have you given up on them…”

“I have not given up,” cried Nils his voice loud and his eyes angry. “Do you see this uniform? These pips? I still fight!”

“No!” Batman grabbed him by the collar, and pulled him close. “You’re going through the motions.”

Several moments passed in silence and Nils quivered both in anger and anxiety. Face to face with a hero of legend, he felt as if he’d lost his mind. But the hallucination hadn’t caused that feeling. He’d felt it since the moment he watched Jillian die. And now, here in this fantasy world he realized for the first time, that indeed he had given up on it all in that second that the light faded from her eyes.

“Death… Pain… Loss…” Alfred shook his head sadly. “Jachin, tell your brother what those things did to Torrik Nils in your reality.”

The young acolyte looked from Alfred to Nils. “It broke him. He was lost to it.” A tear formed in the corner of his eye. “It made him evil,” he said in confusion. “But… I felt loss too. I felt pain. I’m not evil.” Inclining his head toward his brother he said softly, “You’re not evil…” He choked back the tear and found his voice again. “Why?”

Batman answered. “If my actions were motivated out of a need to avenge a single, personal act of violence, my quest would have ended years ago and I would have been lost too… I could have been lost to evil as well. It's not about a single act of terror and violence. It's about all of them.”

“Guilt and duty…” Again Alfred took the conversation and all eyes found him. He stood and took a few steps towards Nils. After easing Batman’s grip and freeing the young officer he continued, “Because of a powerful combination of guilt and duty his quest never ends and is only occasionally and temporarily thwarted.” He nodded at Nils. “It’s okay to be occasionally and temporarily thwarted, you know.” The old man chuckled then pat the Captain on shoulder.

“Why,” the acolyte asked again. He couldn’t tear his eyes from the Batman and continued on with the questions that bothered him so much. Somewhere in this mess he knew a profound truth eluded him. Raising his hand towards the Cowled Hero he asked again, “What sets him apart? He seems so….dark. And insane. Is he obsessed and vengeance driven? That is how his holiness was…”

Nils couldn’t find words. Occasionally he would shake his head, but with his brow dangerously low over his eyes he watched the exchange in denial. He did remember his mirror self, however. And darkness, obsession, insanity… All of these things had marked his reflection in the alternate universe.

“Dark? Vengeance driven? Pish posh!” Alfred shook his head then took his place at the table once more. “These things may be fuel, but they are not Batman. The trauma of his parent’s death may be what motivates him and forces him to go on, but what makes him Batman is a decision. He made a decision to be a good guy, which is a decision not too many people make. He is a self made hero. He didn’t get superpowers, or cybernetic implants… He made a choice to be what he is.” Camael, in the guise of Alfred Pennyworth, paused and waited until Nils looked at him. Then he continued slowly. “Batman is motivated by the terrible things that happened to him when he was a child, but that’s not the thing that defines his character. What defines his character is his decision to do something…”

“I was doing something,” Nils exploded finally. Pent up emotion flowed from him in a rush of anger and tears. “I was doing something! But she died anyway! She died in the middle of it all, and now I don’t want to do anything anymore.” He covered his face with his hands and fought the urge to weep outright.

Suddenly there was a hand on his shoulder. He looked up to see the First, his own eyes full of tears. With no communication but a nod of understanding, the young man became comfort. And the two brothers embraced.

An almost imperceptible turn at the corner of Batman’s mouth signified the barest semblance of a smile. “Come with me,” he said as he turned and his black cape swirled behind him. “I want do show you something.”

Still with The Batman, Camael and Torrik Jachin
Batman.png
Camael.jpg
Originally Posted 12/20/08 by Torrik Nils


-Kira Manor-

"It is done," Oichi informed the younger samurai. Terasakai nodded his head briefly at the master samurai, he had heard the shouts of victory and then Oichi had called him away from his post. His charges, the family of Kira had been allowed to sneak away from the manor and were safe from reprisals. Now he stood beside his master, Oichi, the leader of the disgraced samurai and listened while the warrior related to Terasakai what had taken place in Kira's private rooms. "He could not even die honorably," Oichi's statement was followed by a sigh of exasperation. "I gave him the option of seppuku but he quaked with fear and would not speak sensibly. I offered to be his second and make his end quick and still he would not choose the way of honor."

"Perhaps he never truly had honor?" Terasakai suggested in a whisper. Dawn was breaking as both men stood on the front steps of the deceased Kira's mansion and watched the other samurai re-enact their victory, bolstering their confidence for the task ahead. Kira had been brought to justice and now the 47 ronin would return to the grave of Lord Asano and lay Kira's head beside it.There was no assurance of their safe passage to Lord Asano's tomb and any number of forces might try and impede their journey.

"To say that is to question the shogun," Oichi warned his apprentice before adding in a low tone, "but I have had my own doubts. When the men that the shogun gives authority to are corrupt, what does that say about our Lord Tokugawa?"

"Naganori was not corrupt," Terasakai said flatly. "The shogun can only seem honorable as long as those that serve him act honorably." A hand clasped his shoulder and the young man looked to his master. For a moment a look of emotion passed over Oichi's features but this look was fleeting and the warrior's face became hardset once more. In the glance Terasakai beheld the pride of a teacher knowing his student has learned his lessons well.

"I have one last mission for you Terasakai," Oichi told the young warrior, "You have to deliver word of what has happened to the shogun. Go to Edo and tell Lord Tokugawa what we have done and how we have kept our honor."

Terasakai could not fathom why he was being sent away. "I want to join you," he protested, "I can aide you Master, do not shame me by sending me away from the last fight!"

"Terasakai! I do not shame you. I honor your devotion to your friend Asano Naganori," Oichi explained in his gruff manner. "You fought with us because of your loyalty to your friend. We, the 46, fought out of duty to Bushido and our personal honor. Yours was a higher path. It is a path that few within our ranks could understand because of how dedicated they are to our code. But you looked beyond what Bushido dictated and followed your personal honor. That is the type of warrior I am honored to have served with," Oichi told his apprentice. "Now go! Inform the Lords of Edo of our victory! Tell them that Lord Kira has been brought to justice!

The young ronin followed the intricate patterns of the carpet on which the shogun's sandals rested as he finished his account of the events that had transpired at Kira manor. It was the first time Terasakai had spoken to someone and not been able to look at the upper half of their person. There was a long, uncomfortable silence in the room. A feeling of utter dread came over him.

"Javier, are you okay?" Katie asked in concern. There was a moment when she could have sworn the engineer had stopped breathing. "Is something wrong?"

"No, nothing," he replied quickly, understanding almost immediately what had just happened. I shifted, between my world and the dream..and it was so sudden. "I'm sorry Katie, I have something..important to take care of in engineering," Javier said lamely. "I'll pick up Lia after school tomorrow."

"Okay? I could call T'Shaini if you feel..?" the school teacher started to offer.

"No need to do that, I'm fine, I just have to speak with Cadet Wekesa. It's crucial..and I almost forgot," the engineer explained as he hurried out of the Ibrahim's quarters, "I'll go do that." then he broke into a run in the corridor. If the answer to these dreams lays with Hudson and Wekesa then I need to find them before anything serious happens in the dream. Like me being executed!

Originally Posted 12/21/08 by Javier Costala


Cadet Wekesa sat alone at a corner table in the Event Horizon lounge, oblivious to anything or anyone else in the room. He didn't feel like going back to his quarters, though he was sure he would probably regret it in the morning when he went on duty. After he had left T'Shaini's office, he had somehow found his way back here, alone in the corner with a stiff drink.

The activity in the lounge had died down some at this late hour, which was fine- Simba wasn't particularly in the mood to socialize anymore tonight. A few tables away, Camael was still charming a number of Hawking crewmembers with his stories and eccentricities.

What a day, Simba thought to himself as he picked up his glass and took a large gulp of Aldebaran whiskey. He grimaced slightly, unprepared for the strength of the alcohol as he swallowed it, and glanced over at Camael's table. Why is he watching me? he questioned as his eyes met the visitor's. The old man smiled, and the young cadet smiled back weakly, then quickly returned his focus to the glass of pale green liquid on the metal table in front of him.

Deep inside, Simba felt old feelings struggling to surface. It was like an explosion within him, something he had worked to suppress and control, but always threatening to break free and consume him. Why?! he thought, angrily. He hadn't thought about these things for years… had tried hard not to think of them. And yet all day, he couldn't keep his mind off of them. Maybe it was this whole business with Matt, unsettling him more than he realized. He took another, bigger, drink of the whiskey and closed his eyes in frustration, trying to relax and push his thoughts back where they belonged.

Suddenly, the room grew quiet and the sounds of the Hawking's crew faded away. It suddenly felt warmer… much warmer. Simba opened his eyes, and looked at the half-empty cup of tea sitting on the wooden table in front of him. Frowning, he reached out to touch the cup, then pulled his hand back in shock. He looked down in disbelief at his slender child's body, clad in a yellow and blue short-sleeve dashiki shirt rather than the adult Starfleet uniform he'd had on only a minute earlier.

"Simba!" a woman's voice called from somewhere nearby. Simba looked up and took in his surroundings. He was in a kitchen with whitewashed walls, brightly lit by the late afternoon sun streaming through a window. The curtains flapped lightly in the breeze, which carried the aroma of frying plantains through the room.

"Simba, are you listening to me?" The young boy turned his attention to the woman, wearing a bright orange and purple dress in a traditional African pattern, who stood at the stove, shuffling sliced plantains around a frying pan and carefully monitoring a steaming pot on another burner. "Go outside and find your sister and get washed up for dinner."

"Yes mum," he replied, instinctively, as he slid out of his chair. He paused for a moment, surprised at his own high, child's voice. He was no longer a man; he was a ten year old boy again. Part of him wanted to know how… why… but somehow it didn't seem to really matter.

"When you come back in, set the table so we can eat as soon as your father gets home." Ayo Wekesa looked over her shoulder and smiled at the boy as he scampered out of the kitchen.

Simba paused as he went out the front door and stood, barefoot, on the red earth. It was a beautiful afternoon, hot but pleasant with the occasional breeze. The Wekesa's modest house was surrounded by a large yard ringed with thick foliage separating it from the neighbors. The modern skyline of Accra was just visible over the tops of the trees. Simba let the afternoon sun wash over him, taking with it the last lingering feelings of having just been someplace else, in a different time. He grinned, breathing in the fresh summer air, then ran around to the back of the house.

"Hey, Ashanti!" he called to his sister, who was giggling as she played on a swingset with the girl who lived next door. "Mum says it's time to come in and wash up for dinner."

"Not now!" she shouted back at him, sticking her tongue out as the swing carried her up into the air. Ashanti was two years younger than Simba and, at age eight, had no interest in listening to anything her brother had to say.

"Well, mum says you have to come now… I'm going to tell her if you don't!" Simba didn't hold his little sister in the highest regard either… but then, what boy his age did?

"Listen to your brother, Ashanti," came a deep, booming voice. Simba turned to see his father coming around the corner of the house. Ashanti jumped off the swing and, waving goodbye to her friend, came running over to give him a hug. "And how are you today, Simba?"

"I'm doing good, father," Simba replied as the three of them walked towards the front door of the house. Being here with his family on such a beautiful day, Simba couldn't imagine anything in the universe that would ever make him want to leave this place…

Originally Posted 12/21/08 by Simba Wekesa


Outside the XO's quarters
USS Hawking

Alright, maybe he cannot hide from me forever, but he is certainly doing a good job of hiding from me now. Filled with purpose T'Shaini had set off to speak with the Captain, but he was nowhere to be found, and the computer was no help whatsoever…internal sensors operating at limited capacity, unable to fulfill request…what was that supposed to mean? End result, she was now heading toward the XO's quarters. Yet another attempt at yet another recalcitrant patient.

Hand raised to signal the door chime, the counselor was startled to hear an unfamiliar…thrum from inside the room, a sound so intense that it vibrated the floor beneath her feet, courtesy pushed aside she keyed in her emergency codes and burst through the door. Stumbling over a box with the words Acme Anvil Company in large black letters across the side, T'Shaini ran into the main room.

"Oh gods…Harry." Picking her way through the shattered glass surrounding the fallen man, the counselor noted the overpowering smell of the whiskey that had no doubt spilled as the glass had fallen to the floor.

"Wendy?" One hand reached blindly towards the sound of the so familiar voice, heedless of the shards it traversed, "I didn't… didn't drink it… he stopped me… I didn't…" but the malignant tremors surged again, preventing further protest.

"Who stopped you? Who was in here?"

"Yes."

"What?" A furrow appeared between her brows. If he did not drink the whiskey (and she had full confidence that he would not lie to her) then what was wrong with him?

"What's on second," he corrected before another seizure ripped through and the world went red from the malevolence growing within. "He said there's something in my head.. showed me… from the temple… from the Wraith… something's in there," he turned unseeing eyes towards his friend, "I saw Sara…"

=^=T'Shaini to transporter room, I have two to emergency transport to sickbay.=^= Odd that his words did not cause her to doubt his sobriety…or his sanity, she had seen and heard far too much lately for it to do that.

=^=We have you counselor… hold that; the nebula's giving us a hitch… two minutes to transport.=^=

"We will get you to sickbay, Ji…someone can help you there." He was clearly in so much pain, T'Shaini had never seen him do more than wince, even with dire injuries, the pain he was exhibiting now was more than worrisome.

"Seldon's right… m'not fit for duty," Harry's voice was barely audible… every word had to pass through a hissing… "Sara was right, too. I have an empty… " tide of despair which rose to drown him in the vastness of its "… space…"

And finally, finally, he fell beneath the crashing wave of the Wraith's design.

"Oh Harry…" T'Shaini had no idea whether he was delirious or whether, like her, Javier and Matt, he had seen something. Where is that transport?

"He is lucky to have you," the already familiar voice of Camael spoke from the shadows of the room, followed by the man himself, though a more serious rendition than T'Shaini had first met. "They all are; and the better for your presence."

T'Shaini turned to face him, one hand still resting on Harry. "I thank you…I feel somehow that there is more I could be doing, should be doing…yet, I have found that I cannot let what I perceive as my lack hinder me from as many attempts to…counsel as are needed." A slight smile lifted the corner of her mouth. "For which I think I have you to thank…what exactly is going on here, and what have you done to Harry?"

"Not a thing, bless you… but, thanks to his most unique tastes in fiction, Harry was able to discover a great harm that had been done to him, before it is too late."

"Harm? What Harm?" She instinctively blocked the unconscious man's body with her own. "And who are you that you have that power?"

Camael held up his hands in a surrendering gesture, "I am what I told your good Captain," he said, the smile gracing the wizened face once more, "an historian… a scholar… seeking the truths that define life in this galaxy. Over the many centuries I have found the surest way to find these truths is through the… stories… of the lifeforms I meet. People really do have the most interesting ways of expressing themselves in the privacy of their imaginations!" For a moment, Camael was suffused with the utterest joy in the wonder of sentient life, then his eyes fell to Harry and he let out a small sigh, "In Lt. Finn's case, his soul's story was tainted by the energy seed which a, ah… Pah Wraith, I believe you call it, planted in his mind while he was at its mercy…"

"Oh…oh." T'Shaini looked down at Harry, then back up at Camael wide-eyed. "I thank you again, for Harry. I find it likely that would have been difficult to diagnose. I will inform the doctors…when we arrive." She tapped her commbadge to obtain the status of the transport, it was as effective as if she had asked the wall for information. "You as well?" She queried with a quirk of her brow.

In response he held up his fingers in a small, pinching motion, "A bit, but have no fear. He is, for the moment, free of the despair on which the seedling feeds. Though it has grown quite a bit since he first woke, I daresay…"

"It is…treatable?"

"I have the utmost faith in your fine doctors… that Ender… well, there's one can spy a fox in the chicken coop." The smile widened again, "But now you see, it wasn't Harry's intention to dismiss your care, he was only lost…"

"And you have given him the ability to find his way home." A warmth and a feeling of gratitude spread over the counselor as a smile spread across her face to answer his. "I know four that have been directly affected by your gifts, I imagine…if need is what spurs the giving, there are many more on the ship for which I would like to thank you."

"Nonsense," he waved off the praise, "they have found their own ways… as did you, I might add. I only provided the… scenic route, I suppose you might say?"

"You might, I would be more inclined to say that they were on a guided tour."

"A matter of opinion, to be sure," he responded with a bow as the telltale hum of an active transporter filled the room, "It has been a pleasure, dear, dear T'Shaini," Camael called out, "And don't worry about the mess… I'll clean up… "

Before the T'Shaini could form a response, she found herself materializing in sickbay, where she could see the new CMO mobilizing for the emergency call. How to explain the malignancy? "Dr. Seldon, this may rather seem out of the realm of reality….but I suppose if you are going to serve on the Hawking you might as well become accustomed to that."

JP with the multi-voiced Harry Finn
**Originally Posted 12/21/08 by T'Shaini


The Winter Palace

“… I won’t let you take him away from me, again.”

The prince said nothing, only watched.

Jenny, hot beneath the cold of his gaze, held onto her resolve… or in this case the tin heart which had returned Ben to her, “I have to go,” she asserted. And there was a way out, now, she saw… the prince’s arrival had revealed the door…

“There can be no parting for us, Jenny…”

She rose from where she had been kneeling, the knife heavy in her hand, “I don’t wish to hurt you.”

“A convenient wish,” he replied, bemused, “for surely, you cannot.”

There was no gesture to give warning; first Jenny was standing, armed and foolishly defiant and the next, her wrists were clasped together in one of his frigid hands, the blade clattering across the floor to fetch up against the sill of the now-open portal. Such was the strength of winter that, finding herself caught up in his glacial embrace, Jenny was unable to do more than shiver.

“I believe,” he said softly, leaning down, staring into the wide grey eyes, “I owe you one… final… kiss…” Then his lips covered hers with frost and his breath, which was the North wind, filled her lungs and this third, lingering and most mortal kiss bestowed, the Snow Prince lowered her carefully to the floor. Kneeling at her side, he observed with clinical detachment as Jenny was subsumed by the cold, becoming in reality the maid of ice he’d once named her. “I am sorry we will not be friends,” he said, truthfully, “but you still may serve me, if only as a reminder of the fickle nature of Humankind.”

His only answer was the hollow clatter of the metallic heart as it rolled from Jenny’s outstretched hand.

The metal heart skittered across the frozen flagstones of the palace floor before its progress was arrested by a wingtip patent leather shoe. The heart lay just under the toe of the shoe before a raven swooped down and caught the heart up in its grasp. Otto circled then dropped the metallic heart into Ben's open, waiting hand. The Iotian slipped it into his pocket.

"Did I ever tell you what I did to the last bruiser I caught kissing my girl?" Ben said to Bogey as he glared at the Ice Prince from under the brim of his fedora. Both men were dressed to the nines in Chicago street clothes, circa 1920, and each held a Tommy-gun like it was an extension of the man that carried it.

"No, but I guess you fed him some lead, since she's still your girl," Bogey answered as he gave the youngster a tough grin. He'd grown to like Ben in the past hour. The two had machine-gunned their way through the lower palace. Forty-five caliber bullets had shattered the frost wolves and glacial bear guardians that protected the ice realm's citadel. The gangster was glad he'd found someone with heart to help him bring down the Ice Queen. The ice twerp chose that moment to stand and face them and Bogey knew what was in the prince's immediate future. Lead.

"Damn right," Pierce answered. His finger pressed the trigger and a loud roar filled the room. The 'trench broom' sent a hail of rounds toward the guy that had just had his mug all over Jenny Anderson. The bullets impacted with the man's body sending him stumbling backwards before the prince vanished in an icy vapor. The vapor trailed out of the door and soon after they heard a horrified screech from deep within the palace. Or at least Bogey and Otto heard it, as soon as the ice prince dissolved Ben had crossed the room and fallen to his knees beside Jenny.

She was so cold, frigid even, as Ben lifted her up. He held Jenny close to him, holding her like he'd always wanted to, but had been afraid to because of their friendship. And her having a boyfriend. "Jenny, it's Ben, I came for you," he told her. Why do I keep saying that? It's not like I came to say hello. Pierce wrapped his coat around them, trying to warm the deathly cold woman with the heat from his own body. To the disgust of Bogey, he had kept the woodsman's fur coat and worn it, now BHP was glad of the decision.

“B-B-Ben?” Even through the mortal chill Jenny felt the arms she’d thought were lost forever but now, “G-g-guess d-dying’s not so bad… f’you’re h-h-here, t-too.” Even saying the words, however, the ice of the prince’s fatal caress began to cover her eyes and he faded from view, “D-don’t… don’t leave me alone…”

"You're not dying." It was easy to say but not so easy to believe as Jenny showed no signs of getting warmer. He could feel her chill breath on his neck when she spoke. Ben moved so that he could look into her eyes which seemed to be turning black. "I'm not going anywhere," he promised, "you're my girl..you've always been my girl, I won't leave you." Ben's head dropped so his lips could kiss Jenny's. Her lips were cold, his own warm and full of life, and Ben breathed his warm breath into her mouth hoping beyond all hopes that it would bring warmth back into her body.

To Jenny, fading, it was as if Ben's words were falling… warm rays from a distant star… and since those words were born of the long-hidden truth they were enough, just, to stem death's tide. What turned that tide, however, this being a fairy tale, was of course the young man's kiss… the first he'd shared with her and the first she knew of…

"Ohboyohboyohboy…" the fluttering exclamation preceded a blast of subarctic proportions.

"All this?" the voice of the Snow Queen roared in the concentrated blizzard which spun madly through the chamber, "All this destruction for a silly child who doesn't know her own mind?" The prince's many treasures were sent swirling and vicious sleet cut at the living creatures as mother and son combined to create a killing storm.

"Otto! The matches!" Bogey called out even as he turned to fire at the Queen. Ben pulled the large coat over he and Jenny and it covered the two of them, protecting them from the shards of ice that cut the air. Now's not the time to smoke a cigarette, Bogey. Pierce thought. He felt the storm get worse as ice pelted them and Ben knew Bogey was getting the worst of it. "We have to help him. Jenny, we have to fight back!" Pierce pressed the machine gun into her hands as his own hands covered her's, steadying the weapon as he dropped the coat away. "Now Jenny, let her have it."

Only just awakened and functioning on automatic, Jenny accepted the heavy gun, the type of which she'd read about in old novels. Seeing the Queen, who she knew was the source of this storm, the Security officer aimed and pulled the trigger.

Three seconds later the queen was as bodiless as her son and Jenny was once again wrapped in Ben's arms, this time because he'd prevented her from being knocked onto her behind. Looking up into his amused gaze, "It's got quite a kick…"

"Yeah, they just don't make them like that any more," Ben answered in a regretful tone. He searched the room for Bogey and saw that his idol was leaning up against the wall, bloodied and battered from the winter storm. "Huzzah for the damsel in distress!" Otto cried as he did a loop the loop then flew down next to Bogey and dropped a matchbox in the gangster's hand. "She's your girl alright Ben," Bogey said, catching the matches and extracting one so he could hold it against the flint strike, "tough dame, and she handles a chopper well enough. It's time we were going though. Say your goodbyes, I'm striking the match soon and all this will fade away."

"Wait!" Jenny jumped towards Bogey, shaking off the sensation that he was familiar, "Please, wait." She turned to Ben, "If it fades… you'll go too! I just got you back… I don't… don't go…"

"Where am I going to go?" Ben asked Jenny, then added, "I'll always be with you." He looked up at the raven and said, "Otto, stay warm. And Bogey.." Ben had no words to say how much he appreciated and loved being in the gangster's company, "keep an eye out for the beat cops and don't sweat the nickle men."

"Take care of yourself Kid." Bogey gave the brim of his hat a pull in Jenny's direction then struck the match. "Ohboyohboy..it's warm now!" Otto cried as with a roar of heat a brilliant flame sprang up from the matchstick.

Jenny didn't see the match flare. The second the seasoned gangster began the strike, she spun back and threw herself at Ben, wrapping her arms around him and holding on for all she was worth. "Just in case," she said, as he looked questioningly down because it was just too much to hope that the ice would melt and leave Ben's ghost behind.

Under the bright, burning heat that radiated from the matchstick, the palace of ice melted away. Not only the palace of the Ice Queen melted but also the mountain it sat on and the woods that surrounded it. The ice and snow flowed outward and up the walls as they turned from white to gray, Starfleet gray. Bogey and Otto dissipated into the background as armory lockers and worktables took the place of trees. Benjamin Hyde Pierce might have seen this and been amazed, but the moment after Jenny Anderson had taken hold of him, Ben had pulled the young woman close and placed another kiss on her warm, full mouth. So when he finally pulled away the transformation of the Snow realm into the Armory was complete. "You know this is the first place I saw you..and I think you were crying that day," Ben told her.

There was magic, and then there was magic. Eyes opening as the spell of his kiss eased enough to allow her to breathe, Jenny stared at Ben… in the Armory… on the Hawking. "You're still here."

"They were wrong about me," Ben explained, half-smiling, "I didn't die on the Lakota and I've been away for too long. But I wanted to come home to the Hawking, to my friends and to you. I had a lot of time to think about what I wanted. And there was a lot of time spent looking at what I should have done differently." His hand gently brushed her auburn hair away from her face. "I want to be here on this ship and I want to be with you. I always considered you as a friend," BHP said as he looked into her beautifully grey eyes, "but I want to be more than your friend..because, I care for you."

And standing there, in the real world in his real embrace seeing the real nerves in his eyes, Jenny was able, finally, to see what had been there, all along. Standing on her toes, "Oh boy," she said, laying a soft kiss on one cheek, "oh boy," and the other, then…

"Oh boy," Ben said before he kissed her cherry-red lips once more, letting the fur coat fall closed as he pulled Jenny close, so they were hidden from the outside world.

Featuring the shattering of the Ice Twerp and his Frigid Mater
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Originally Posted 12/21/08 by Javier Costala


A Knight of Ghosts and Shadows

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