Part 4

by: SwordnQuill

Disclaimers: The characters of Xena, Gabrielle, Lao Ma, Alti, Borias, and everyone else who sounds familiar belong to Pac Ren and Universal Studios. I am not making money off of this story.

Genre Disclaimer: Ok. Bear with me, please, because this is kinda tough to explain. Sometime last year, I read a story on the internet that moved me so much, I was inspired to write a sort of companion piece to it. That story was "Lost Soul Walking" by DJWP. In her words, "This is NOT UberXena fiction. It just starts out like it is." The same can be said for this piece. While not directly related to "Lost Soul Walking", "Desert Storm" can be considered a sort of prequel to it. It is a story, if you will, about the lifetime before the one depicted in that fabulous, outstanding story. (Can you tell I loved it?) In addition, this is somewhat of an ambitious piece of fiction, in that I am attempting (don’t know if I’ve succeeded, but I’ve attempted) to take the entire X:WP universe and modernize it. We start, in updated terms, with my version of Xena’s betrayal by Caesar (seen in "Destiny"), and continue up through the X:WP episode known as "Remember Nothing". The plot will be very recognizable to you. It’s meant to be that way.

Special note: Because of this, Gabrielle does not appear, except in offhand mention, in a great deal of the first half of this story. Do not look for her, because you won’t find her. After all, she was not a part of ‘evil Xena’s’ life. If she were, things might have turned out differently, but because this is based on the premise of "Lost Soul Walking" it cannot happen differently. Gabrielle will, however, make her presence known, and that quite strongly, in the second half of the story. If you can hang on till then, I believe that you will not be disappointed.

Sexuality and Violence Disclaimers: We’re dealing with an updated dark Xena through much of the first half, and an updated redeemed Xena through the second. There’s gonna be violence. There are gonna be naughty words. There are also descriptions of sexual activity in this work. There are allusions to heterosexual sex, but nothing graphic. There are some graphic (though I hope tasteful) scenes of sexual expression between women as well. That is how I see the relationship between Xena and Gabrielle, and that is how I will continue to write it.

And, finally, thanks: To, as always, the incomparable Mike. A better beta and a better friend one could never hope for. Thank you also, as always, to Mary D, who rescued this story from the refuse heap and begged me to keep going on it. If you hate it, blame her. <w> Grateful and heartfelt appreciation goes out to DJWP, for continuing to write stories that grab me somewhere above the liver and giving her kind permission to mention her story in these disclaimers. If you haven’t read her stories, please, do yourself a favor and do so. Finally, this story is dedicated to a group of people without whom I would most probably be living on the streets. Elizabeth, Rachel, Sulli, and the rest of the "Get Sue to Atlanta" crew, this one’s for you!

Feedback: As always is gratefully appreciated. If you wrote to me regarding "Redemption" during the month of September to early October and I haven’t responded, please allow me the honor of apologizing in public. It was then that I was at my lowest point and making ready to move to my new home. Your words of praise and encouragement for my writing kept me firmly out of the pit of depression I was falling into and I shall be forever grateful to each and every one of you who took the time out to feed this bard. And for those of you patiently (or not so patiently) waiting for Redemption’s sequel, fear not, for with the conclusion of this piece, that piece will be started. Any and all who wish to may write me at . I’ll continue to do my best to answer each and every email. An exploding mailbox is a good thing to have. Thanks again!



by: Sword’n’Quill (Susanne Beck)

PART 4: Sins of the Present

"With shattered legs and crippled soul, I went east. To lose myself in vengeance. Not against Caesar. But the entire human race." Xena. The Debt 1: Betrayal

24 April 1991. A Secluded Airstrip Outside Medellin, Colombia.

"Where are they?" Geraldo asked for perhaps the hundredth time, pacing along the front of a flattened area clear-cut from the surrounding jungles and running a hand through his thick black hair.

"They should be here shortly, sir," Varguez, the chauffeur, replied from his place by the long black Lincoln. "The pilot did say they ran into trouble in customs, remember."

"That was six hours ago!" Geraldo replied, coming to the end of the dirt strip and reversing to begin the track all over again. The grass was plastered flat under his boots. "They should be here by now."

Geraldo Nunez Rodriguez, known as el Toro by his compatriots, was a man unused to waiting. As the eldest son and sole leader of one of Colombia’s largest drug cartels, he was used to being waited on hand and foot. When his mouth opened, people jumped. Or they died. His life was simple and cruel and he liked it that way.

Or at least it was simple until she came along. The plains of his handsome face creased into a smile as a picture came to his anxious mind unbidden. A picture of how she had looked when they first met, her face and form almost invisible under the crust of dirt she wore like a cloak, the pupils of her dazzling eyes pinpricks as his cocaine jolted through her system.

His self appointed job as public relations manager for his business kept Geraldo away from the streets of his home for long months. When one of the new pups had been inducted into his family had been given a task to complete, a simple money retrieval, Geraldo jumped at the chance to go back to the streets and alleys where his customers lived. He tagged along as the young man’s mentor and guide, content to simply sit back and watch as the cruelties he had ordered were carried out first hand.

Geraldo smirked as his compatriot pointed out the intended target. It was a woman with long, matted black hair. She sat in a tiny alley, her head propped back against a stucco building, her hands shaking as the drug worked its way through her system. Her long legs, visible beneath the tattered robe she wore, were bent, twisted and scabbed over. A gnarled stick which the drug lord supposed was a walking cane of some type, lay discarded next to her body.

Geraldo watched as his associate smiled arrogantly, thinking this job would be the easiest one he would ever have, and stalked over to where the young woman sat unaware. It would be the last mistake the young man ever made.

In a move almost too quick for the drug lord to see, his employee found himself sprawled between the woman’s twisted legs, a long dirty arm tight across his throat. His face slowly flushed to the color of old brick and his eyes bulged slightly in their sockets. His mouth opened wide in a rictus of pain from which only the slightest of wheezes emerged.

Another quick move, and the man’s gun was removed from its hiding place. The barrel was raised, not to point at the unfortunate man’s trapped head, but at Geraldo himself. The drug lord smiled at the temerity of the dirty woman. As she turned her gaze his way, Geraldo was struck dumb by the dazzling beauty of her sapphire eyes. "You had something you wanted to say to me?" she asked in clear, non-accented Spanish.

Locked in the mesmerizing gaze, Geraldo cleared his throat softly. "You have something that belongs to me," he said finally.

The woman sneered and tightened her lock on the young thug’s throat. "Not for long," she drawled.

"I was speaking of my money."

The woman’s gaze narrowed. "Who are you?"

Geraldo smiled charmingly. "My name is Geraldo Nunez Rodriguez."

"And I’m supposed to be impressed?"

The drug lord’s smile turned into a bark of laughter. In his life, no one had ever had the guts to speak to him this way. He found that he liked it. In small doses, of course. "Perhaps not," he replied. "But you’ve been dealing with some of my associates for quite awhile now. And it appears that you haven’t been compensating them fairly for the services they’ve been providing for you."

The corner of the woman’s mouth turned up in a smirk. "Perhaps if you hired better ‘associates’, fair compensation, or lack thereof, wouldn’t be a problem, now would it."

Geraldo laughed again, surprised and charmed by the woman’s audacity. "You may have a point, Miss . . . ."

The woman didn’t rise to the bait. "I’ll make you a deal, Rodriguez. You and your cronies leave me alone and in return, I return your little puppy here back to you only slightly damaged and promise to find another place to procure my . . .services."

Folding his arms across his broad chest, Geraldo appeared to give the proposition serious thought. "I have a counter offer," he said after a long moment.

"Which is . . . ."

"Join me."

"I work for no one."

Uncrossing his arms, Geraldo made a sweeping gesture that encompassed the dirty alley and the tattered denizens therein. "If you’ll pardon me for saying so, a person like you does not belong in a place like this. I can offer you so much more."

The woman laughed dryly. "Thanks, but I think I’ll pass on your generous offer."

"I do wish you’d reconsider, Senorita. You could have a place to live, new clothes, a chance to use your obvious talents on more than a group of untrained thugs whose only desire is to steal what is yours." He took a step closer to the woman, pleased to note that the gun didn’t waver an inch. "I could give this to you, if you’d let me."

"At the cost of my freedom," the woman snarled at him.

The drug lord snorted. "Freedom? You call this being free? Forgive me for laughing, my dear, but my ‘product’ binds you closer to me than slavery ever could. Not an hour goes by when you don’t think of me and how to get what I offer. I’m allowing you a chance to break free from all of this." He took another step closer, his hands empty and held out before his body. "Join me."

After a long tense moment of silence between the two, the woman lowered the gun. "Fine. What do I have to do."

The charming grin returned. "Kill him."

The gun came back up. "What?"

Geraldo shrugged. "You were right, of course. This was his first test. He failed. Kill him."

The woman narrowed her eyes again, searching deep into Geraldo’s own. Then, with a shrug of one broad shoulder, she drew her arm back, gripped the side of the young man’s jaw, and yanked hard. The sound of bones snapping filled the narrow alley. Gun still raised, the woman pushed the dead thug from her lap. "Now what."

The drug lord closed the distance between the two, holding one hand out. The woman drew back the gun still pointed at his heart. He smiled. "You may keep that. It’s yours. I am only offering you a hand up."

"I can take care of myself." Shrugging off his aid, the woman struggled to her feet, grabbing the walking stick and planting it on the ground between her feet. She wobbled slightly as her ruined legs attempted to balance her weight. "Are you sure you want . . .this?" she asked, gesturing at her own crippled body.

"It’s your spirit I want, Senorita. Your legs can be fixed. Come. We have much to discuss."

The droning of a nearby plane broke Geraldo from his musings and he looked up, a smile breaking across his face as he recognized the markings of the craft. "About time," he muttered, walking to stand well away from the crude airstrip just in case the pilot had problems with the landing. Within a very few moments, the plane landed safely and taxied to the end of the runway. Shutting down the engines, the pilot opened the door and rushed to the side of the plane, opening that door and pulling down the steps nestled inside.

The first person out was one of his young associates, grim-faced and carrying a large briefcase. Geraldo’s grin widened as the man’s companion exited next, negotiating the steps with negligent grace despite the slight limp she still bore even after several rounds of surgeries. Rather than detracting from her charm, the drug lord felt the slight imperfection only added to it. "Kael!" he cried out, waving one hand as she exited.

The smile she gave him doubled the drug lord’s heart rate. He realized he was probably in love with his partner some time before this and his body’s response seemed to confirm this fact nicely. The contrast between the dirty woman sitting in an alley and this vision of female beauty stunned him as it always did.

Geraldo cut his gaze from the vision descending from the plane and brought it to the young man stepping diffidently toward him, briefcase in hand. The man’s hair was mussed and the corners of his long moustache drooped down, disconsolately. He had the air of a whipped puppy and the drug lord smirked openly, knowing exactly who had caused this normally brash man such distress. "Any trouble?"

The young man affixed a false smile on his face. "None, senor," he said, thinking himself safe. A small pop was heard and the man’s eyes rolled back in his head. His hand reflexively opened and the briefcase flew into the surprised hands of Geraldo as the courier collapsed to the ground, dead, blood streaming out from the wound behind his ear.

"Liar," Kael snapped, re-holstering her small gun at the small of her back.

Stunned, Geraldo looked from the briefcase in his hands, down to the dead man and back up to meet Kael’s disgusted gaze. "You can’t keep killing the help like that, my dear," he said in a soft voice.

"That man was a liar and a fool, Geraldo," Kael replied, crossing her arms. "Maybe when you learn to start hiring real men instead of the inbred bastards of your family members, this organization will have a chance to flourish." An ebony brow raised over one sapphire eye. "Until then," she snarled, toeing the dead man over onto his back, "you get what ya pay for."

Geraldo looked down at his dead associate, sighing. With a simple hand gesture, the chauffeur was beckoned to take the body into the jungle where the animals would take care of its disposal. Soon, all that was left of the young man’s life and deeds was a blood stain on the runway and a case filled with millions of dollars in the hands of the drug lord. "What happened?" he asked finally, looking up at the woman who had captured his heart, even though it appeared she herself didn’t own one.

"He froze like a kid caught with his pants down. Right in front of customs, no less." She sighed disgustedly. "I wound up having to convince the agent to give us a free pass."

Varguez returned from his chore and escorted the two into the waiting limousine. As soon as the two were safely ensconced within, he got in the car and started the engine, pulling away from the airstrip and back to Medellin.

Laying the briefcase on the floor between his feet, Geraldo turned to his partner and lover. "So, how did you manage to ‘convince’ the customs agent to let you go?"

Kael smiled lasciviously, turning her body and straddling the drug lord’s hips. "Let me show you," she said, giving the drug lord a kiss that set his hair on fire. Pressing her warmth against his now powerless body, he gave in to the wild, feral feelings only this frightening woman could bring out in him.


Same Day. Rodriguez Compound. Medellin, Colombia.

The massive room was shadow-cloaked, lit as it was by only the fire cheerily burning in the stone fireplace. The scent of wood smoke wafted gently through the room and Geraldo sniffed at it appreciatively as he gazed down at Kael lying naked on her side, dozing lightly. The light from the fire stroked the burnished skin of her body, highlighting the sweat sheen that coated her skin like another lover. He smiled tenderly as he ran blunt fingers gently through her tousled raven hair. He thanked God for sending her to him, his dark Angel. In the months they had been together, she’d proven her worth admirably. Her mind was as sharp as any he’d ever seen and her physical abilities, especially in areas of combat, were unparalleled. With her aid, he’d quickly moved up the ranks from just another middle-of-the-road cartel to one of the biggest in Medellin. If things continued on their present course, and he had no doubt but that they would, they would eventually control all of Colombia.

His gentle touch woke Kael and she opened her eyes, the firelight dancing in their depths creating a shimmering miasma that the drug lord couldn’t help but be drawn into. "What," she stated, wiping a tendril of hair stuck to her lips and watching him watch her.

"Just glad to have you back," he hedged. Her response to him the last time he tried to tell her how he felt shrank his male ego enough for him not to want to push the issue further. For now, it was enough that she shared his business and his bed. There would be time enough to convince her to share his heart in the future.

She didn’t answer. Instead, Kael pulled away from his gentle touches, running a long fingered hand through her hair to settle it somewhat. Then she pushed her long body upwards to settle her back against the ornate oaken headboard, turning her head to gaze into the blazing fire, her thoughts her own and far away.

Geraldo studied her strong profile for long moments before he reached over to the nightstand and pulled a long white envelope from it. "I have something for you," he said softly, handing it to her.

Kael drew her gaze from the fire, staring down at the envelope in her hands. Her eyes narrowed, and when she looked over at Geraldo, her gaze was cold. "Tell me this is a joke," she said, her voice low and ominous.

"I don’t know what you’re talking about," he said truthfully, a tendril of fear snaking through his guts.

"This," she said, gesturing at him with the envelope. "Payment for services rendered?" Her eyebrow arched to hide behind her bangs.

His eyes went wide as the implication struck him. "No!" he said, laying a hand on her arm, which she promptly shrugged off. "Nothing like that!" Shifting on the bed, Geraldo ran his hands through his own hair. "Kael, do you know how many men I’ve had killed for even thinking that about you?"

"Then what’s this?"

"A gift." At her angry glare, he hastened to explain. "For both of us. Please. Open it and you’ll understand."

Looking at him in warning for another long span of moments, Kael finally shifted her gaze downward to where the envelope was cradled in one large hand. After another moment, she gave an internal shrug and tore it open, shaking out the contents. "Plane tickets?" She brought the tickets up closer to her face so that the light from the fire could decipher the words. A malicious smile bared her perfect teeth when she read their destination. "You finally did it."

"No, my dear. You did it. Apparently, Ming Dao was quite impressed with the way you decimated the members of Chao Lin’s tong who visited us last month."

"That was fun," Kael sneered, remembering the screams of the dying men.

"A little barbaric," he said, grinning slightly. "But creative," he hastened to reassure.

"Dead’s dead. I always did like a good kill."

"Quite true. On both counts. While you were away, Ming Dao contacted me and offered us both a chance to sit with him and talk. The opportunity to bring heroin and opium into the business is one we’ve been waiting for for a long time," he explained unnecessarily.

"So, it’s all set?"

"We leave in the morning."

"Wonderful." Her grin was that of a predatory cat on the trail of a particularly tempting morsel.

Geraldo smiled, moving close to her, happy when she let him. "Yes," he murmured, covering her responsive mouth with his own, "it is, isn’t it."

To Be Continued...


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